Prevention is better than cure and hearing loss prevention is critical for sustained hearing health.
While hearing does slowly decline with age, protecting yourself from moderate to high level noise exposure will help avoid permanent hearing damage along the way – because once it’s lost, it won’t come back. There are proactive things you can do, like hearing exercises that improve hearing pathways, or solutions to help manage tinnitus.
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Our hearing helps keep us connected. Most of us take it for granted until we notice we’re not hearing as well as we’d like to.
What can go wrong:
Noise exposure can accelerate natural age-related hearing loss. Damage can occur from one-off exposure to loud sound or from being around moderately loud sound for an extended timeframe.
Hearing damage can also arise as a result of:
- head trauma
- a perforated eardrum
- some cancer treatments and medications
- chronic and untreated ear infections
While you can’t reverse hearing loss, you can prevent further damage.
Listen to volume warnings
Sound is considered harmful when it exceeds 85 decibels (dB) and when you’re around that sound for a certain period of time.
For example, you can be exposed to 85 dB standing on the corner of a busy intersection, and that sound will become damaging to your hearing if you stand there for longer than 8 hours a day. Safe exposure limits halve with every 3 dB sound pressure increase.
Limit the time you spend in loud environments
For every hour of loud sound you’re exposed to, remove yourself from the source and allow yourself at least ten minutes of quiet.
Listen to your ears! They’re sensitive to dangerous noise, and pain receptors act as a warning.
Use good quality hearing protection
Wear hearing protection when you know you’re going to be around loud sound. Custom earplugs offer superior protection.
They limit damaging sound intensity without distorting or compromising music sound quality. Our clinicians can help you.
Turn it down
Your music is too loud if you can’t clearly hear someone talking at a normal level from about a metre away.
When you listen to music through earbuds or headphones, you’re probably damaging your hearing if the person next to you can hear what you’re listening to. Test volume levels by removing your headphones and holding them at arm’s length.
Avoid swimmer’s ear
Waterlogged ears can become inflamed and infected. Avoid this by wearing swimmer’s ear plugs and/or a neoprene hood or swimming cap. Make sure your ears are completely dry after a swim. You can purchase ear drops over the counter at a chemist that will help dry the ear.
Questions about your hearing?
That sensation of hearing a ringing or buzzing noise inside your head is actually quite common. It’s known as ‘tinnitus’.
Tinnitus can be temporary, and it can come and go, but it interferes with daily life for 1 in 6 Australians.
What causes tinnitus?
While tinnitus can be a symptom of a medical condition, such as Meniere’s disease, it’s usually a sign that you have some hearing damage.
Damage may be caused by occasional exposure to dangerously loud sound or repeated exposure to moderately loud sound. Sometimes it only takes one encounter with extreme sound to create enough damage to cause lasting tinnitus.
Can hearing aids help tinnitus?
High quality hearing aids – that sound comfortable and don’t distort sound – can help people with tinnitus in several ways:
- they make external sounds more audible and comfortable so that the tinnitus isn’t as noticeable
- they lessen the effort it can take to listen, reducing stress and fatigue – which can trigger or worsen tinnitus
- they make communication easier by helping stop the sounds you want to hear from being masked by unwelcome noise
What if hearing aids aren’t enough?
A hearing aid usually helps mask tinnitus, but doesn’t always solve the problem.
If tinnitus is a major issue for you, you can investigate sound therapy or seek assistance from a specialist audiologist or a psychologist who specialises in tinnitus management. Our audiologists can talk to you about your options.
It’s important to get a medical check.
Your GP may refer you to an audiologist who may discover an underlying health issue or find that your tinnitus is caused by ear wax blockage.
You can’t reverse hearing loss, but you can proactively strengthen your hearing pathways. When used in combination with high quality hearing aids, listening exercises may slow the effects of hearing loss and improve your hearing capacity.
Are you ‘ear fit’?
You can do these listening aerobics daily to help keep your ears fit:
Ask a friend to recite three numbers to you. Repeat them back, in reverse order.
When you can do three, do four. And so on.
Next, ask a friend to read a passage of three sentences. When they’ve finished, recall – out loud – the first and last word of the passage
Increase difficulty as you go.
Music training helps improve your ability to make sense of speech sounds. Sites like thetamusic.org offer a great range of music training games.
You can also use music to help focus your hearing in background noise.
- Turn on the radio or CD player and have a friend talk to you from a reasonable distance, at a normal volume.
- Work on filtering out the music.
- Add more sound sources as your skill improves.
Find a place to sit without interruption, and close your eyes.
- Focus on the sounds around you. What can you hear?
- Try to identify the sound furthest away from you. Hold that sound in your focus for a moment, then listen to a closer sound.
How many sounds can you identify?