Preventable Hearing Loss

While today’s article is more likely directed to teens and young adults than it is to the elderly, there are a number of baby boomers who should also pay close attention to this information. Exposure to loud noise over a period of time is one of the most common causes of permanent hearing loss. Because it develops slowly and there is no pain or other symptoms associated with it, most people do not realize they have a problem with hearing loss until it is too late.

There are a number of steps you can take to reduce the risk of noise-induced hearing loss:

Avoid loud and harmful noise. When you are exposed to harmful noise at home or at work, you are endangering your ability to hear. Exposure of this type builds up over time result in ear damage and hearing loss.

Harmful noise can come from a number of sources such as riding motorcycles and snowmobiles, using common power tools, lawn mowers, or snow blowers. Even frequenting concerts, dance halls or bars, or other places where loud music is played can cause hearing problems over time. Musicians need to be aware of the possibility their music may affect their ability to hear in the future.

Wear hearing protectors. Factory workers, musicians, and those who are exposed to loud music or other noise can wear hearing protectors such as earplugs or earmuffs to reduce the sound. Stuffing cotton balls or tissues in the ears does not offer much protection. Correctly using hearing protectors can help reduce the level of sound that reaches your ears.

Control the volume where possible. Use wisdom when buying toys, appliances, and tools when you have the choice to buy quieter alternatives. You can, and should, take steps to reduce the noise in your life by turning down the volume on such items as your stereo, television, or car radio, and especially be cautious of the amount of noise on personal listening devices with earphones.

Although we have so far targeted hearing loss due to loud noise, there are other ways you can protect your ears from hearing loss:

  1. Never stick a cotton swab, hairpin, or other object in your ear to try to remove earwax or to scratch your ear. In general, the best way to prevent earwax problems is to leave earwax alone.
  2. Medication you are taking may cause a reduction in the ability to hear. Talk to your primary care physician or local pharmacist if you have any questions regarding medication and hearing loss.
  3. Even blowing your nose can cause hearing problems. Always gently blow your nose through both nostrils to prevent hearing loss.
  4. Stop smoking. Many people do not realize that smoking can affect your ability to hear. Talk to your doctor for further information.
  5. Scuba divers and air travelers are both at risk for hearing-related problems. Learning correct underwater descent and ascent techniques will protect scuba divers. Those who fly should yawn and swallow frequently when the plane is landing. Chewing gum or wearing ear protectors can help frequentl flyers protect their ears.

Because noise related damage to your ears cannot be reversed, you should not wait until you notice you are having a problem with your hearing to protect yourself. If you notice you already have some damage, it is not too late to prevent further damage so that you can preserve what hearing you still have left.

If you work in the United States and are concerned with the noise in your workplace, contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding their hearing level guidelines. Their website is at

For further information about hearing loss and what steps you can take to improve your hearing, you can contact the following organizations:

  • American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) online at or phone (703) 836-4444
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association online at or phone 1-800-638-8255

Yesterday we asked the question Is Hearing Loss Reversible?. You can read the article by clicking on this link.


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