How to Care for Your Ears

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If you’re not an audiologist, it’s easy to forget about your ears and hearing health for a while. Most people don’t spend a lot of time each day considering the state and condition of their ear canal or inner ear. Most of us don’t worry much about our hearing until we start suffering from hearing loss and need hearing aids to help us out—and then, pretty soon, we forget about our hearing again until we suffer further hearing loss and need to head back to our friendly neighborhood audiologist.

This isn’t a good way to go through life, though. While we don’t necessarily have to be experts in the workings of the inner ear or spend hours each day dwelling on our hearing health, we should each put regular effort into caring for our hearing and our ears. With that in mind, we’ve put together some tips for better protecting your hearing. Here’s what to do (and what not to do) for better hearing health in all of your years.

Controlling Loud Noise Exposure

Your ears are there to help you hear things, but they can only take so much. In a noisy environment, your ears can start to suffer— and the roots of a long-term hearing problem can be planted.

Simply put, healthy ears are not designed to handle noises as loud as we sometimes encounter in the world. A loud construction site can do permanent damage to our hearing, especially if we’re exposed to it in a chronic fashion. And that music you listen to can be a problem, too: Loud music can damage hearing in just minutes.

You should protect your ears from noises louder than around 85 or 90 decibels. Noises in this decibel range can damage your hearing if you are exposed to them for long enough. As you get up past 90 decibels, the time needed to do permanent hearing damage gets lower.

A baby’s ear is more sensitive than an adult’s, so hearing protection is even more important for young ones. Protect your baby’s ears from noises louder than 85 decibels. They can’t do it themselves, so take charge and protect your child from hearing loss.

Treating Infections and Other Problems

Your ears do their best to keep hearing well for you, but they aren’t foolproof organs. They’re prone to ear infections and other ailments, some of which may be more common among newborns, babies, or older adults. The threats that you and your family face may vary.

No matter what age you are, you’ll want to gently clean your ears. From newborns on up, people need clean ears. This does not, however, mean that you should be sticking anything into your ear canal. Proper hearing care means cleaning gently outside of the ear. If you’re dealing with earwax buildup, there are safe treatments for that; digging around with a Q-tip is not one of them.

Still, you may find that you or your loved ones end up with ear issues like ear infections. So what can you do? Simple: You can turn to the experts. You may not be an audiologist, but some very bright people are. So head to your primary care physician or to your child’s pediatrician, get an initial diagnosis and a referral, and then go to experts who specialize in ear care.

Audiologists and Ear Care

Experts in hearing health are called audiologists, and they have a lot to offer you and your hearing. These experts can address concerns and diagnose problems with hearing tests, questionnaires, ear examinations, and other diagnostic tools. They can help you address problems like hearing loss and tinnitus.

Tinnitus is a condition characterized by the perception of background noise: A hissing, whining, ringing, or other noise that seems to always be sounding off. Often (but not always) high in pitch, this noise can sometimes be traced to physical issues, from wax blockages to middle ear or inner ear issues. Other times, the noise is a mental health issue—people with normal hearing can have tinnitus!

Caring for your ears means heading to the pros for different types of hearing tests and treatments. It means relying on the experts for early intervention and after-the-fact treatments alike. You can avoid loud noises and clean your ears properly on your own, but there’s no substitute for professional care.

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