Almost everyone during their adult life realizes that as they grow older they start to press the “volume up” button more often, or they have trouble listening and ask those around them to start speaking up. There are 2 common occurrences that lead to people losing their hearing over time: age and noise.
As you grow older, the tiny hair cells in your inner ear start to break down and are not able to pick up certain sound vibrations as well as they used to. In addition to this, excessive loud noise can damage the hair cells inside the ears leading to premature hearing loss.
The good news is that there are many things you can do to avoid noise-induced hearing loss and keep age-related hearing loss from getting worse. Here at Apegeo, we gathered some information and tips to help keep your ears sharp and young.
1. Avoid loud noise.
The best way to prevent and improve your noise-induced hearing loss is to stay away from loud noises as much as possible. You might be wondering, “How much noise is too much noise?” For some people, the loudness of a noise can be subjective but there are many objective ways to describe it in order to make it understandable to everyone.
Generally speaking, a noise can be loud enough to damage your hearing if:
- You need to raise your voice in order to speak to other people or to make other people hear you.
- You find it difficult to hear what people around you are saying.
- Your ears hurt.
- You have muffled hearing afterward or your ears start ringing.
The only way to measure noise levels is in decibels (dB). The higher the number, the louder the noise. A sound that has measured over 85 dB can be damaging to your ears especially if you are exposed to it for long periods of time.
- Someone whispering = 30 dB
- 2 people having a conversation = 60 dB
- Traffic = 80 dB — 85 dB
- Motorcycle = 90 dB
- Playing loud music through headphones = 100 dB
- An airplane taking off = 120 dB
With the technology that we have available at our fingertips, it’s very easy to measure noise levels. You can install an app on your smartphone, calibrate it accordingly and get accurate readings about your noise exposure levels.
2. Be cautious when listening to music.
Playing loud music through your headphones or earphones can be one of the most dangerous things you can do for your hearing health. This is because when you put on headphones or earphones you are also trying to mute any external sounds which lead you to have the music volume at the highest level. Remember that turning down the music volume even just a tiny bit can make a huge difference to your health.
To help avoid damaging your hearing, here are some tips for you to consider:
- Opt to buy noise-canceling headphones/earphones instead of turning up the volume to mute external sounds.
- Adjust the volume to the point where you can hear the music comfortably, but NOT higher.
- Avoid playing your music at more than 60% of the maximum volume.
- Do NOT use your headphones/earphones for more than 1 hour at a time. Try to take at least a 10-minute break from time to time to let your ears breathe and to protect them against infection.
3. Protect your ears during loud events.
When we’re exposed to loud noises over a long period of time we will gradually start losing our hearing without even realizing it. This is because the damage to the loud noise exposure is usually gradual, so it will be unnoticeable until the symptoms become more pronounced. Loud noise exposure can also cause tinnitus (a ringing, buzzing, or roaring in the ears or head), which can then lead to hearing loss in both ears.
It’s important to protect your ears from exceptionally loud noise that can be found at concerts, bars, nightclubs, roadwork, gigs, sporting events and more.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Move away from the loud noise source.
- Take a break from the noise every 15 minutes.
- Give your ears about 18 hours to recover after exposing them to excessive noise.
- Consider wearing earplugs. You can buy “musicians’ earplugs” that are reusable in order to reduce music’s volume without distorting it.
4. Add some cardio into your life.
Enhance your hearing with exercise. A recent study showed that with increasing levels of cardiovascular health comes increased levels of hearing sensitivity. There is a link between the cardiovascular system and functional ability of the organs and tissues in the inner ear.
By exercising, you enhance your blood circulation that travels to your ear bones and muscles. When blood flow is facilitated through exercise, the nutrients like antioxidants and protective heat shock proteins will travel throughout your system and improve your hearing.
- When you choose to exercise in order to prevent hearing loss you need to perform large muscle movements such as walking, bicycling, and swimming for at least 20-30 minutes at a time, 5 days a week.
- Try aerobic exercises as well. They can divert the blood flow from less metabolically active parts of the body (i.e. organs and tissues of the inner ear) to more metabolically active parts of the body (i.e. skeletal muscles engaged in exercise).
5. Do practice exercises that improve your hearing.
The human brain plays a very important role in processing the sound information that our ears receive and we can’t ignore it. A recent study done by the University of Pennsylvania indicates that there are links between hearing loss and mental conditions such as anxiety and depression.
The research suggests that hearing loss may lead to gray matter atrophy in auditory areas of the brain, particularly in older adults. Therefore, some brain exercises like puzzle solving and sound playing games can get your brain juices flowing.
- Start playing strategic games. Strategic games, crossword puzzles, and brain teasers provide a great mental workout. They build on the brain’s capacity to form and hold onto cognitive associations. Try playing cards, puzzles, board games, or word/number games like Scrabble and Sudoku.
- Practice having conversations in noisy places by simulating those environments at home. You can easily do this by turning on the radio or television to a normal volume, then have a conversation with others in the same room. Focus on the conversation while tuning out all other sounds. This will help your mind concentrate more on what’s important and train your ears to tune out unnecessary sounds.
- Practice finding the source of the sound. Close your eyes and then ask someone to quietly move to different parts of the room or the house and make noises. Then you will have to identify the direction of the sound and its relation to the distance.
- Practice recognizing various types of sounds. Go to a relatively quiet place, close your eyes, and try to identify all the different sounds in your environment. Try to understand and identify the different sounds that you can hear, both close and distant. The more you practice this exercise, the more sounds you will be able to recognize.
6. Do some yoga.
Yoga is widely practiced for its variety of health benefits. Fortunately, there are some yoga exercises that can help with your hearing too! The main goal of these yoga exercises is to increase blood circulation in your ear and then in your brain. Increased circulation helps improve nerve functions and it removes waste and toxins.
Yoga postures with deep breathing exercises increase oxygen blood flow to the ear. In addition, stretching and muscle relaxation performed during yoga have a positive impact on the heart, blood circulation, and blood pressure.
- Tadasana — tree pose: Tadasana is a good stretching and breathing exercise for the entire body. Tadasana stretches the arms, the chest, the abdominal muscles, the spine and the leg muscles and gives a sense of balance.
- Trikonasana — triangle pose: The triangle pose improves the flexibility of the spine, corrects the position of the shoulders; relieves backaches, increases blood flow, massages and tones the pelvic organs along with the ligaments of the arms and legs.
- Dhanurasana — bow pose: The bow pose is great for strengthening the abdominal core. This motion gives your entire abdominal area an excellent massage, increases blood flow from the abdominals to the brain, activates your digestive system, and fights constipation.
- Bhujangasana — cobra pose: The cobra pose opens up the chest and reduces tension, especially when you suffer from stress and fatigue within the body. It strengthens and tones the back muscles, and it relieves any tension, aches, and pains in the lower back.
7. Change your diet
Incorporate foods in your diet that contain nutrients needed for good health and normal ear function. Make sure that your diet is low in saturated animal fat and refined carbohydrates. Fatty foods can reduce blood supply to the ears (due to cholesterol build up) and other parts of the body.
Try to eat cold-water fish like salmon, trout, and herring, incorporate nuts, seeds, and whole grains in your daily eating routine and most importantly, fresh vegetables and fruits.
- Get a lot of antioxidants in your system. Antioxidants fight the aging process throughout the body and neutralize oxygen radicals that build up in the body and cause damage.
- Get enough Vitamin B3 + Vitamin B6. Vitamin B3, otherwise known as niacin, promotes blood circulation to the ears and throughout the whole body by causing the small blood vessels to expand. In addition, Vitamin B6, otherwise known as pyridoxamine, is needed for healthy nerve function.
- Get enough Vitamin B12 + Vitamin B9. Vitamin B12 and vitamin B9 (folate) play an important role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, as well as in the formation of blood and DNA. Vitamin B12 deficiency can be linked to age-related auditory dysfunction, so it’s important to consume adequate levels of these vitamins through food or supplements.
Sometimes debris or earwax can block the outer ear canal. This is a very common cause of conductive hearing loss. In general, earwax has protective antibacterial properties and is relatively healthy when you have it in small amounts. Most of the time ear canals are self-cleaning, however, in some instances, they become clogged or impacted which then can cause partial hearing loss.
Cotton-tipped applicators are definitely not ideal for deep cleaning the ear canal. It’s actually better to consider safer methods like administering drops of mineral oil or baby oil into the clogged ear.
- Try using hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide drops can be used to clean your ears and dissolve earwax safely, however, they might cause a mild burning sensation for a few minutes.
- Use a syringe. Using a syringe, you can gently rinse out the ear canal using water or a saline solution. This method is usually more effective if some type of wax softener is used up to 15-30 minutes before irrigating.
- Avoid using cotton swabs. You should avoid cleaning your ears with cotton swabs because you may push the wax deeper into the ear canal. Once the earwax builds up, it can become impacted and lead to more serious problems.
Be sure to see your doctor if you have a sudden change in what you can hear — it could be a symptom of other serious medical problems. Have you ever experienced hearing loss? What did you do about it? Please let us know in the comments below.