The thought of never listening to your favorite song again or never hearing the voices of your loved ones can be scary. Just as you take care of the rest of your body, it’s important to take care of your hearing health. Knowing how to prevent hearing loss is key to ensuring that you’re able to protect your hearing throughout your lifespan.
Hearing loss can be genetic or it can be caused by trauma or exposure to loud noises. While genetic hearing loss can’t be prevented, environmental and trauma-related hearing loss can.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s important to prevent hearing loss because not being able to hear is strongly associated with depression and can lead to loss of enjoyment when all the sounds we want to hear (music, the voice of a loved one, etc.) become muted and lack quality.
Sashini Seeni, MBBS, General Practitioner of Medicine at DoctorOnCall tells WebMD Connect to Care that you can do the following to prevent hearing loss at different stages of your life:
As a child:
- Ensure the child gets vaccinated.
- Monitor the child when they are playing, since small things that can be put inside the ear can cause temporary hearing loss.
- Create a quiet home environment.
- Keep the volume of the television or radio at the lowest volume but that the child can still hear clearly.
As a young adult:
- Avoid frequently going to concerts or festivals which involve very loud music in the surrounding area (and wear protective devices when and if you do).
- Avoid listening to music using headphones with high volume.
- Keep the ear clean by removing the earwax, as an accumulation of earwax can interfere with hearing.
As an older adult:
- Avoiding loud noises as much as possible.
- Consuming food rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, mackerel, eggs, nuts, and seeds) may help in reducing the potential for hearing loss.
- When in a working environment that involves machinery or loud noises, consider wearing earmuffs or earplugs to reduce the noise entering the ear.
Other things you can do to prevent hearing loss include:
Use safe headphones
“If you find yourself frequently turning up your headphones to cover up the sound of those around you on your daily commute to work, consider investing in noise-canceling headphones, which can help eliminate those outside sounds. It’s a good idea to avoid in-ear headphones and always opt for headphones that fit over the ear so that sound is more evenly dispersed,” Leslie Soiles, AuD, Chief Audiologist at HearingLife tells WebMD Connect to Care.
Practice the 60/60 Rule
“When using headphones, it is encouraged that you listen no louder than 60% of your device volume for no longer than 60 minutes per day. The 60/60 rule can reduce your risk of noise-induced sensorineural hearing loss,” Regina Presley, AuD, FAAA, CCC/A, Senior Cochlear Implant Audiologist at The Presbyterian Board of Governors Cochlear Implant Center of Excellence at Greater Baltimore Medical Center tells WebMD Connect to Care.
Get your hearing tested
“Getting a routine hearing test to identify [hearing loss] at the earlier stages is important for prevention,” Gokul Kruba Shanker, MBBS, MS, DNB, Head of the Department of Surgical Gastroenterology at VGM Gastro Centre, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
The UK's National Health Service recommends getting a hearing test as soon as possible if you’re worried you might be losing your hearing. The earlier hearing loss is picked up, the earlier something can be done about it. You might also want to consider having regular hearing checks (once a year) if you’re at higher risk of noise-induced hearing loss — for example, if you’re a musician or work in noisy environments.
Hearing Loss Can Be Treated and Managed.
In many cases, hearing loss is a treatable condition. It is worth taking the time out to get the answers and treatment you or your loved one deserves. Don’t wait. Start today.