Not all types of hearing loss are preventable, but you can take steps in protecting your hearing in many cases. Taking precautions in certain situations can help you reduce the odds of damaging your hearing.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Exposure to excess noise is one of the leading causes of hearing loss. Any sound over 85 dB can cause permanent hearing loss over an extended period of time. Fortunately, it is easy to protect your hearing from loud noises. When encountering noise that exceeds 85 decibels (dB), try the following:
- Use hearing protection. Earplugs are a necessity when you will be exposed to loud noises for extended periods. Custom molded earplugs designed to fit the unique shape of your ears offer the best protection. Earplugs have even been specially designed for the specific needs of musicians, hunters and swimmers. Be sure to wear earplugs when attending concerts or sporting events, mowing the lawn, riding a motorcycle or other noisy vehicle (motorboat, snowmobile, etc.) and using power tools.
- Keep the volume at a reasonable level. Don’t listen to music or watch TV at a volume level that others find uncomfortable. This is especially important when wearing headphones or ear buds.
- Look for products with low decibel ratings.
Certain viral and bacterial diseases can cause hearing loss. Measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, meningitis and syphilis are all known to cause hearing damage on occasion. The following tips can help prevent hearing loss from disease:
- Vaccinate your child. Immunizations help protect children from many common diseases that can lead to hearing loss.
- Wear protection if sexually active. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have been known to cause hearing loss.
- Seek medical attention for an ear infection. Ear infections that are chronic or persistent can cause permanent hearing damage. It’s best to seek treatment as soon as possible.
The sensory cells in the inner ear are susceptible to damage from certain medications such as antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, salicylate pain relievers (aspirin), quinine and diuretics. The following tips can help prevent hearing loss from ototoxic medications:
- Always take medications only as directed.
- Seek medical attention if experiencing any unusual side effects from your medication, such as tinnitus.
Accidents and Trauma
Injuries from accidents can cause damage to the temporal bones in the skull, causing loss of hearing. To help preserve your hearing in the event of an accident, take the following precautions:
- Always wear a seat belt when riding in a car.
- Wear a helmet when riding a bike or motorcycle and participating in contact sports.
- Do not insert foreign objects into your ears. This includes cotton swabs, safety pins and Q-tips.