All Sorts of Everyday Events can Harm your Hearing
Of all the senses, hearing is the one we abuse most. We don't stare at something that's painfully bright or touch something that is too hot. But we are willing to listen to something that is too loud. That's because, unless we shatter an eardrum, there's no blood and usually no pain. They're simply part of the way we live. Unfortunately, we're living loud.
Any noise that forces you to raise your voice to carry on a conversation can, over time, cause damage. Up the intensity and duration of the noise, and the potential for damage goes up too. What's more , damage tends to be cumulative. So after an unprotected round with a chain saw your hearing will bounce back. But you've done short term damage to your ears, repeated over and over, could lead to permanent damage.
Here are a few tips to protect your ears well over 60
It's not just the sound of the tools that hurts your hearing, it's the sound of them cutting. Many tools, especially those ripping wood or metal, create an intolerable level of sound well above the decibel levels of their motors.
Because of the close proximity of the loud noise for long periods of time, you must wear earplugs. If you spend a lot of time woodworking, have your earplugs custom made by an audiologist.
The pressure on the ear created by holding a phone to it all day can damage the cochlea, the snail shaped 'seat' of the hearing organ.
If you talk on the phone several hours a day, switch to a speaker phone.
The speakers in your personal stereo headphones are tiny, but so is the distance from the speakers to your eardrums and that can be trouble if you spend a lot of time listening.
Your ears will tell you that ringing and feeling of fullness, plus muffled hearing, mean you've listened too long and at too high a volume. Don't think short breaks between long sessions will solve the problem. It takes several hours for your ears to recover from the first round.
Drivers Left Ear Syndrome
The left ears of truck drivers tend to have significant hearing loss. That's the side of the head closer to the window and the loss is caused by wind noise and traffic. If you're on the road a lot, better use the AC.
Overexerting yourself in the weight room can rupture the pressure release membranes in the inner ears, causing problems with hearing and balance. When lifting weights, exhale during muscle contractions. This prevents build up of the pressure that can rupture the membranes.
Flying and Scuba Diving
Pressure changes associated with both these activities can rupture your eardrums or inner ear membranes and scar tissue can cause trouble later.
Talk to your doctor before flying with a cold, because if congestion blocks your eustachian tubes, you might not be able to equalize pressure between the outer and middle ears. A decongestant and nasal spray will usually get you airborne, but with severe congestion you might be advised to stay at home. Same risk with scuba diving, if you go down or up too fast.
A family history of hearing loss indicates that you might have a predisposition. Be extra careful. While some people at a rifle range might be okay with plugs, you might need plugs and muffs, plus have your hearing tested frequently.
High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol
Both high blood pressure and high cholesterol are bad, not only for your heart but also for your ears, because they restrict blood pressure flow to the inner ear. If you're not exercising regularly, start. If you're eating a lot of fat, stop.
High Doses of Aspirin and Ibuprofen
Too much of either can paralyze the outer hair cells of the cochlea, scrambling the sound signals heading to your brain. Tinitus (ringing in the ear) is a warning sign. Stopping the medication when you start to experience symptoms usually clears up the problem. Long term damage is fairly rare.
Your neighbors may think you're goofy, but earmuffs or earplugs are really the best solution. Here's the test: If you finish mowing your lawn and your ears are ringing and common sounds are muted, start wearing muffs.
Your heavy metal habit may be setting you up for old age hearing trouble. Even if your ears seem to recover completely from a two hour encounter with Metallica, not all of your inner hair cells do. And they're crucial for transforming sound waves into nerve impulses.
Here's where you draw the line on volume. When you turn off the boom box or car radio, do your ears ring or feel full? Are ordinary sounds muffled? If so, then the volume was too loud. At concerts, always wear foam earplugs (available at pharmacies and audiologists).
It's called traumatic noise exposure, meaning that one 140 decibel pull of the trigger can do instant, permanent damage by destroying your inner ear hair cells, which are crucial to turning the vibrations of sound into nerve impulses. A good defense - one that's inexpensive is to use foam insert plugs that you can pack into your ears.
Cleaning your Ears
An aggressively applied earbud can puncture your eardrum and the resulting scar tissue can give you hearing problems later. Be careful when cleaning your ears.
Boxing, Wrestling and Rugby
The big risk is cauliflower ear, a swollen mass of ruptured blood vessels in the outer ear. That's what results when you get jammed along a wrestling mat or punched a few hundred times too often on the side of your head. That swollen mass can block off the ear canal. Wear headgear to protect yourself.