The old adage ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’ really is true, especially when it comes to health. It’s easy to take good health for granted, it’s often not until things start going wrong and conditions start to develop that we realise just how important each and every part of our bodies are. When things start to fail or work incorrectly, it’s easy to see how crucial each of their functions are to our mental and physical wellbeing.
When it comes to our ears and hearing it can be distressing when things start to decline. Whether it’s a short- or longer-term issue, it’s something you’ll want to have looked at by a professional. Ear and hearing issues can be disorienting, painful and can give many people a ‘claustrophobic’ feeling which can be unpleasant. So, if you’re already experiencing symptoms or just are looking for ways to futureproof your hearing health, here are some ways to go about it.
Turn Down the Volume
Simply put, too much volume isn’t good for your ears. This could be moderate volume over a longer period, such as listening to music using headphones too often. Or very loud volumes over a short period, such as being close to an explosion or plane taking off. Either way, it’s important to protect yourself. Too much noise can overwork cells and membranes in the cochlear of the ear, which can cause them to die. In some cases, these never recover, and permanent hearing loss can follow. In fact, by the time you notice hearing loss around 30% to 50% of these cells are likely already permanently damaged.
Many smart devices these days will notify you if you’re listening to music through headphones at an unsafe level, so take heed of this warning. If you regularly attend events such as nightclubs, music festivals and other noisy places then stand back from the speakers as much as you can. Ideally, have regular breaks to quieter areas to allow the cells in your ears to recover. Music can be a great way to de-stress and unwind, and we all know that loud music is that bit more effective when it comes to getting your workout done, your house cleaned or when you want to dance on a night out. But think about your regular long term hearing health. Listen to loud music in moderation and consider turning the volume down a notch to protect yourself.
Follow Safety Procedures at Work
Not everyone does their work in an office or quiet shop, many workplaces are noisy environments. Factories churn out products, construction sites with power tools grind away, and loud music blares in the ears of bar workers. Even dentists will regularly have to deal with the sound of their drill buzzing away for a lot of the day.
Your workplace should have strict safety measures in place for all areas of your health and safety, such as protecting you from chemical and heat burns, slips trips and falls, eye damage and hearing loss depending on what you do. So, ensure you’re following procedures to the letter. If you’re required to wear earplugs or ear defenders for most of the day, then be sure to do so. If you have to protect your ears when you’re using certain equipment, then use it every single time.
The workplace can be a particularly dangerous place for your ears as if you’re in a noisy environment and aren’t protecting your hearing, you’re never getting a break from it. You could be spending up to forty hours or more a week permanently damaging your hearing, much of which might not become apparent until it’s too late. If you work a noisy or dangerous job, you should be seen by an occupational health nurse on a regular basis who can do checks to make sure that your health is being protected.
Break the Cotton Bud Habit
Cotton swabs are incredibly bad for the ears. The ears are essentially self-cleaning, when you use cotton buds to clean out wax, what often happens is that it gets pushed down further into the ear canal causing pain and temporary deafness.
The skin inside the ear canal is incredibly delicate, and any kind of trauma can cause a reaction and become infected easily. Symptoms of an ear infection in the outer ear canal (known as ‘otitis externa’) include pain, swelling, and discharge in the ear which can lead to itching. Many people then reach for cotton swabs to resolve the itching making matters worse. It often needs to be treated with antibiotics or a topical spray medication containing steroid, antiseptic and antibacterial ingredients.
If you’re used to using cotton buds this can be a hard habit to break, but it’s worth working on doing so. The less you use them to itch your ears, the less itchy they will become since you’re not constantly damaging and irritating the skin inside.
Keep Your Stress Levels Down
Stress is detrimental to health in general, commonly known to contribute to conditions like heart disease, strokes, diabetes, heart attacks and mental health issues. But surprisingly, it can affect your hearing health too. Stress is linked with the condition tinnitus which is a ringing in the ear. According to the National Library of Medicine, many patients report increased tinnitus symptoms after dealing with stressful events. Researchers have linked stress and anxiety as causes for tinnitus although the reasons for why are unclear, however it has been shown to worsen the existing condition so if you already have hearing issues, they’re likely to be exacerbated by stress.
If you know you’re dealing with a lot of stress or struggling with your mental health, consider taking action as a way to remedy or protect your physical health. You could try relaxation techniques at home, such as taking social media breaks, hot baths, exercise and massage. If you feel that you can’t cope well then reach out to your GP for advice, you might need either medication, therapy or a combination of the two to bring everything back into check. We all lead busy and chaotic lives and all of us experience stress and anxiety from time to time, but if this is an ongoing issue or something that worries you then taking action will help. Not just for your hearing but for all areas and functions of your body.
Visit an Audiologist
If you’re worried about your hearing declining or just want to be proactive with your hearing health, then book an appointment with an audiologist. Just like we regularly visit the opticians and dentists to keep on top of our health, an audiologist can help to spot any potential issues early or just give you peace of mind if nothing is wrong. They can give you tailored tips and advice based on your lifestyle and ensure you’re not overlooking anything important when it comes to the health of your ears and hearing.
Your hearing is something that can be easily overlooked when you consider how to protect your health, but it shouldn’t be this way. Don’t leave it until it’s too late and you’ve done permanent damage, make changes in the here and now so you can keep this important sense and stay better connected with the world for longer.