Six risks to your hearing

The number of Australians with hearing loss is increasing every year. What you may find surprising is the everyday activities which can severely impact your hearing. With an estimated one in four Australians to be affected by hearing loss by 2050, now is the time to address the practices which may cause you hearing difficulties. These six ways in which you can sabotage your hearing may alert you to the need to change your habits.

1. Drop the cotton buds

Ear wax is necessary to ensure the health of the inner ear, but certain conditions may cause a build-up. Don’t be tempted to dig around with a cotton bud, as this may simply push the wax further into the ear, or worse, if you push too far, you may damage your ear drum. There are many off-the-shelf products which loosen the wax and even something as simple as olive oil can be used. If it gets really bad, a trip to your GP for an ear syringe is the best course of action.

2. Stub it out

Most people know the dangers of smoking in regards to lung health and mouth cancers, but many may be surprised to find out that your hearing can also be affected by lighting up. According to a recent study, heavy smokers can be 1.7 times more likely than non-smokers to suffer from hearing loss, as a direct result of smoking. And passive smokers should take care too, with those who live with smokers also more likely to develop hearing loss than those who don’t. Yet another good reason for quitting.

3. You are what you eat

Tinnitus, or ringing sounds in the ears when no outside source is present, is more than just an annoyance. According to the Australian Tinnitus Association (ASN) approximately 18 per cent of Australians suffer from tinnitus at some stage in their lives. Foods with high salt or sugar content can be a contributing factor, so limiting your intake of foods with a saturation of either can help. In particular, foods high in sodium (salt) can affect fluid regulation when consumed in high quantities. And consuming too many sugary foods, such as lollies and soft drinks, can lead to hyperinsulinemia (a pre-curser to type 2 diabetes) which has a proven link with tinnitus suffers.

4. Keep the decibels levels low

While it’s probably no surprise that continued exposure to loud noise, or high decibels, can affect your hearing, you may not know what safe levels are. Generally, anything under 75 decibels is considered safe, but here’s a guide to what constitutes safe, risky and injury-causing ranges.

Safe Range

Decibels

Whisper

30

Normal conversation

60

Washing machine

90

Risk Range

Heavy traffic, lawn mower, hair dryer

90

Motorbike

95

Hand drill

100

Chain saw, rock concert

110

Injury-causing Range

Ambulance siren

120

Jet engine taking off

140

Shotgun blast

165

Rocket launch

180

4. DIY dangers

Ok, so it’s difficult to keep you garden neat and tidy without using a lawn mower and those little odd jobs around the house often need power tools to get them done, but the high decibels at which such equipment functions can seriously affect your hearing. With many mowers and power tools operating at between 87 to 94 decibels, using ear protection is a simple way to dampen the effect.

5. Turn down the volume

Rock concerts may not be a frequent occurrence as you get a little older, but many people still listen to loud music through headphones and this can be just as harmful. With seven per cent of 18-34 year olds reported as suffering from ringing in the ears as a result of being exposed to loud music, perhaps you should think about turning down the volume when the headphones are on. The tiny hair cells in your inner ear can be damaged by prolonged, loud volumes which exceed 100 decibels and this damage can’t be rectified, Something as simple as turning down the volume on a music player to 60 per cent of the maximum possible and listening to loud music for no more than 60 minutes a day, can help save you from permanent hearing loss.

How well is your hearing and have you had your hearing tested lately?

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