We all experience some form of hearing loss as we get older, but did you know that environmental factors may be causing more ear damage than you think?
A new report from the World Health Organization found that one in four people will suffer from some form of hearing loss by 2050, which amounts to a whopping 2.5 billion people globally. The number of people who are legally deaf could also double between now and 2050.
While genetics play a role in how your ears age over time, there are ways to lessen this progression in your own life. You’re probably already aware that big events like concerts and sporting events are damaging to your ear drums, but there are some common noises you hear in daily life that can lead to slow, ongoing hearing loss, too. Here are seven of the biggest culprits that you may not be thinking about — and what to do instead.
Washing Machine and Dryer
Washer and dryers really run the gamut in terms of how loud they are. But if yours is noisy or you’re running it constantly, the sound can grate on your ears over time. If that’s the case, see if you can at least move into another room or put on noise-cancelling headphones while either machine is running.
Loud Headphones or Ear Buds
This one probably won’t come as a surprise, but whether you’re listening to loud music or a loud podcast or audiobook, ongoing noise from headphones or ear buds can damage your ear drums due to their closer proximity. Make sure your earbuds are at 75 percent of the maximum volume or less to protect your ears.
Lawn Mower and Leaf Blowers
If you’re in charge of your own landscaping, chances are you’ve been around a noisy lawn mower or leaf blower. Be sure to cover up those ears when you’re using either machine to protect your fragile ear drums.
Food Processor or Blender
Love to cook and use your food processor or blender all the time, even multiple times per day? It may be time to invest in some noise-cancelling headphone or ear plugs for when you’re using either device.
While this isn’t necessarily an issue during the pandemic, as fitness classes begin to open up again, it’s worth thinking about the noise level of the room, especially if you’re in loud spaces with pounding music multiple times per week. See if you can work out as far away from the speakers as possible, and bring noise-cancelling headphones or ear plugs if you can.
Many women use hair dryers daily, and in addition to causing heat damage to your hair follicles over time, they can also accelerate hearing damage due to the loud sounds of these devices. Put some ear plugs in while you do your hair; it’ll make a big difference!
Even if you don’t live in a city per se, you may be susceptible to ear damage over time if you live on a busy street or somewhere that has a lot of honking or sirens, such as a busy intersection or a neighborhood near a hospital. There are any number of steps you can take depending on your time or budget. You can try insulating any gaps between your windows and the outside, putting down trees and other plants to lessen reverberations, installing special window treatments that block noise, or buying thicker curtains or a white noise machine.
How to Prevent Hearing Loss
- Get your ears inspected during your annual check-up and look at earwax buildup. (But no, don’t clean your ears with Q-Tips yourself!) Aim to get a more formal ear exam once every three years.
- Check any medications you take to see if hearing loss is a symptom. It’s good information to have and to talk about before anything happens!
- If you’re diagnosed with any chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about how those health issues might affect your hearing. A medical professional might have suggestions for your specific case.
- If you’re buying new appliances and devices, check out their noise ratings and look for ones that specifically have lower noise levels.
- Quit smoking. Research shows that hearing loss is a symptom of smoking, so it’s all the more reason to put down that cigarette.
In addition, if you feel like you may already have hearing damage, visit your doctor to diagnose the issue and maybe get a referral to a specialist. It’s never too late to make sure your ears are okay!