There aren’t many opinions that are unanimously shared by every human on the planet. But it’s a safe bet to say that “losing your hearing is bad” is an opinion shared by all. So what efforts can be made to stop this from happening?
Before we go into the specifics, we’ll make one point clear: you cannot improve your hearing long-term. If you’re born with a certain level of hearing, you won’t be able to improve that level through any method known to man.
Instead, we’ll be looking at what you can do throughout your daily life to prevent your hearing from degrading in the first place, as foresight is key when it comes to healthy hearing.
How can I improve my hearing?
Ears are delicate systems – there’s a lot that can go wrong within them, and a lot of ways you can damage them. But let’s put on our press secretary caps and give that statement a positive spin: there are many ways you can take care of your ears. Let’s look at some of the major steps you can take to ensure prolonged hearing protection.
1. Wear your hearing aids
If you’ve previously been diagnosed with hearing loss and have consequently been prescribed hearing aids, it is crucial that you wear them throughout the day to avoid further degradation.
In a survey we conducted, we found that a massive 39.8% of people were not happy with their hearing aids, for any reason between product reliability or general discomfort levels. Looking at this result, it’s very understandable that you might not want to wear your hearing aid.
If this is the case, then you owe it to yourself to pursue a fix for whatever concern you may have with your hearing aid. If you’ve bought a hearing aid and have since abandoned it, not only would you have wasted money on a product you aren’t using, but you will be doing further damage to your ears by not properly caring for them via your hearing aid.
If you own a hearing aid and are unsatisfied with its performance, you should book a free consultation with one of our partners to get it addressed. Our link will direct you to your nearest hearing healthcare professional, who can help you with any problems.
If you don’t own hearing aids, but are still interested in looking into them, following that link and booking a free consultation is still an option, as it may be the first step to recovering some of your hearing ability
2. Avoid loud noise
Probably the most obvious answer, avoiding loud noise is essential in protecting your ears. If you know much about the ear, you’ll know that sound is translated for our brains by thousands of tiny hairs within the ear. These hairs are very sensitive, and frequent noise can kill them permanently.
Any noise above 80-85 decibel (dB) is enough to inflict damage on these hair cells. This could include anything from a concert to extended exposure to loud traffic. 80 dB (around the sound of an alarm clock going off) is considered to be the hearing damage threshold. This means that anything below this level is safe to listen to theoretically forever.
The further you go above this 80 dB threshold, however, the less time you can spend listening. For example, you can tolerate 85 dB of sound for up to 8 hours, but a 90 dB sound can only be handled for 2 hours. Ramp that up to 110 dB, and you won’t be able to tolerate that sound for more than 2 minutes.
If you must be exposed to loud noise (e.g. your job), always be aware of your decibel intake. Using earplugs and taking breaks are recommended. However, in any job that entails exposure of 85+ dB for extended periods, OSHA requires a hearing conservation program, so if you’re working under these conditions, you’re entitled to relevant resources.
3. Go on a sound diet
As much of a new age remedy as it sounds, a sound diet is a useful way of looking at your audio intake. Seemingly coined by Professor David McAlpine, the term hasn’t taken the hearing healthcare industry by storm just yet, but it’s very relevant to our conversation.
A sound diet is what it sounds like. Much like you hopefully wouldn’t gorge yourself every meal of every day, you should keep mental tabs of how much sound you’re listening to on a given day. In his exact words, “you need to go on a noise diet. If you’re going to a noisy gig, don’t spend all day on public transport listening to your earbuds.”
Sometimes your ears will just need a break. Once a week, try to go somewhere without talking, music, or traffic, and allow your ears to take a breather. As a positive side effect, even if you aren’t actively meditating (which is a bit of an oxymoron,) this will also clear your mind and relax you.
4. Avoid ototoxicity
Ototoxicity: (noun) the property of a chemical that makes it toxic to the ear.
Seeing this definition, you’d obviously want to avoid these chemicals at all costs. But it’s never that easy, is it? Many medications are ototoxic, and it’s in a lot of common substances we interact with throughout our lives.
The first and easiest way to cut down on ototoxicity would be to immediately stop or avoid smoking. Nicotine is an intensely ototoxic chemical, and can inflict a lot of damage on your ears. Even the nicotine inhaled through secondhand smoke can have a profound long term impact on your hearing, as found in this study looking at the hearing of youths who grew up in a smoking household.
Frequent drinking can have a similar ototoxic effect. Alcohol thins the blood, which means not much oxygen gets supplied to the hair cells inside your ear. This can asphyxiate some of them over time, and start to have a noticeable impact on your hearing over time. Alcohol also damages the brain, and one part of the brain that is hit the hardest is the auditory cortex, which is responsible for processing sound.
Finally, and more controversially, some antibiotics and chemotherapy agents have an ototoxic element to them. If you’re being prescribed medication of any kind, ask your doctor if it is ototoxic. If so, enquire about a reduced dosage or alternative course of action.
However, if another option is not possible, we do recommend going through with your doctor’s recommendations. It would be medically irresponsible for us to tell you not to take your doctor’s advice, even considering the potential hearing damage.
5. General health
As much as you’ve heard this a million times from a thousand different people, diet and exercise ends up impacting every aspect of your health. Food doesn’t have too much of a grip on hearing loss, but can affect tinnitus in certain individuals. This is a very case-by-case situation however, and can pretty much only be determined with trial and error.
Food’s effect on the rest of your body, such as heart or lungs, would eventually make its way back to having an impact on your ears. But the big one in this case is exercise. Like we mentioned before, the inner ear hair cells rely on well-oxygenated blood. Exercising allows more blood to circulate throughout the body, which supplies the ears with more of that ever-crucial oxygen.
Interestingly, one of the best methods to optimize blood flow to the ears is yoga. This study found that, while it still cannot “cure” the dead hair cells within your ear, it can allow the remaining cells to maximize their output.
6. See a hearing specialist
If reading this article is your first step into investigating potential hearing loss, then you’ve taken a good first step. So far, you’ve explored five solid lifestyle changes that can help prevent hearing loss, but until you see a qualified hearing healthcare professional, there’s only so much you can do to understand and treat your condition.
While this is our shortest section, in a way, this is the most important step when it comes to addressing hearing loss, as without a concrete grasp on your hearing condition, it’s possible that you may take insufficient or incorrect steps to improve it.
How to see a hearing specialist
If you’re interested in seeing a hearing specialist, our link can lead you in the right direction. You’ll be shown your nearest hearing healthcare professionals, and be able to book a free consultation with them.