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Healthy Hearing

Protect Your Ears and Prevent Hearing Loss

You may be shocked to hear that hearing loss is the fastest growing disability in the western world. The two most common types of hearing loss are age-related and noise-induced. Unfortunately this condition is now not only restricted to older adults. The most recent studies have shown that over the last ten years, the percentages for children and young adults have skyrocketed.  The percentage of second graders with hearing loss has increased by 280%, while hearing loss for eighth graders has dramatically increased to over 400%.

In some cases traumatic noise exposure may cause an immediate hearing loss; however, most hearing losses occur so gradually that you are actually completely unaware you are causing permanent damage. This means hearing loss prevention is especially important for people who are routinely in loud environments or have noisy occupations, such as working in a warehouse or in construction.

To help counteract workplace noise, the Ministry of labour (MOL) has announced new noise regulations in the workplace as of July 2016. According to MOL, hearing protection must reduce the noise to no more than 85 dBa, which is the equivalent of being in busy city traffic with you sitting inside the car.

In addition, the duration of exposure can affect the extent of noise-induced hearing loss. The longer you are exposed to a loud noise, the more damaging it may be. However, these days it’s recreational loud noises that you have to worry about, especially from MP3 players, such as iPods, gaming headphones as well as live concerts or noisy clubs. The MOL regulations do not apply outside the workplace, so it's up to you to safeguard your own hearing at clubs, concerts and during recreational activities (playing in a band, snowmobiling, TV watching, video game playing, toys) or when you listen to music. You have to remember that once your hearing is damaged, there is no way to reverse the damage, it is gone for good. There are however some easy solutions to help keep your ears healthy.

  1. Always use proper ear protection, appropriate for the noise level. If you need to wear earplugs every day at work make sure that you do. Also remember to either discard foam ones daily or clean your molded earplugs regularly. Overused and dirty earplugs are susceptible to bacteria that can introduce dirt into the ear canal causing infections which can also be damaging . In addition, earwax can cause your earplugs to become stiff and rigid, putting strain on the ear canal.
  2. Just because a sound isn’t annoying doesn’t make it safe. Whenever possible turn down the volume on your TV, radio or electronic equipment. Hearing loss is often caused by damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear. These cells vibrate in response to sound waves and these vibrations are translated into electrical signals which are sent to your brain. When weakened or damaged by loud noise or infections they send a constant stream of abnormal signals to your brain.
  3. Consider regular hearing tests if you work in a noisy environment. Regular testing of your hearing can provide early detection of hearing loss.
  4. Give your ears a break. It is recommended that you give your ears at least 16 hours of recovery after they’ve been exposed to loud noise for an extended period of time.
  5. Stop using cotton swabs in your ears; you can cause damage to your ear by pushing the wax deeper into the ear canal, causing a blockage. A small amount of ear wax (cerumen) is healthy and serves as a self-cleaning agent with protective, lubricating, and antibacterial properties. However if you have a build- up of wax in your ear, there are easy and safe ways to help remove it.
  • Mix equal parts of hot water and a 3% Hydrogen peroxide solution, cool the mixture and gently irrigate the ear one or two times per month (make sure the water is body temperature).
  • Use plain vinegar and water and place four or five drops in the ear once a week.
  • You can try an over-the-counter ear wax removal kit; always talk to a pharmacist before use.
  • Be extremely careful with ear candles. Many people have had serious injuries from their use.
  • Book an appointment with a nurse or doctor, who can remove ear wax safely for you.

Almost everyone can experience a ringing in their ears after loud noise exposure, or after taking an aspirin or an antibiotic for a period of time. However, between 10-15% of adults experience constant ringing, whistling, buzzing, chirping, hissing, humming, roaring, or even shrieking called chronic tinnitus. Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the ear or head that does not arise from the external environment but from within the body. Tinnitus can result from exposure to continuous loud noises, impacted ear wax, certain medications, a middle ear infection, or age. It could also be a symptom of Ménière’s disease, which is a disorder of the balance mechanisms in the inner ear.

The growing number of individuals suffering from this condition is alarming. This persistent sound can have a serious impact on your quality of life, leading to sleep disturbances, depression and anxiety. The challenging problem of tinnitus is the lack of support and options available. However, due to the growing awareness of this condition, there is more research being done to help alleviate some of the symptoms. There are some really promising natural treatments for people suffering from tinnitus but more research is needed to prove their effectiveness.

  • Research shows that Pycnogenol® a natural antioxidant plant extract from French maritime pine bark, significantly improves inner-ear blood flow, making it a natural option for those seeking relief from symptoms of tinnitus.

  • Some studies have revealed that many elderly patients who suffer zinc deficiencies had progressive deterioration of hearing.Supplementation with zinc sulfate may help improve symptoms of tinnitus.

  • Magnesium can help promote healthy bone formation and help nerves work properly. Research published in Otology & Neurotology discovered that an intravenous-delivered magnesium compound improved symptoms of tinnitus in a significant number of research subjects. Do not try this yourself. Talk to your doctor.

  • CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant that is believed to be an effective natural treatment for tinnitus by promoting proper blood circulation around the ear.

  • Several clinical studies show that Ginkgo biloba may reduce the ringing for people suffering with tinnitus. A greater reduction was observed by people taking ginkgo for one to three months.

  • Tinnitus patients have reported improvements from treatments such as chiropractic, acupuncture, and hypnosis. These treatments helped to reduce the volume and impact of their tinnitus symptoms.

  • Biofeedback and neurofeedback are two related therapies that can be helpful in reducing tinnitus. By making subtle changes in your body, and learning how to control your body's functions, you can learn how to relax certain muscles which can help to reduce your pain and achieve the results you want.

  • Wearing masking devices. Like hearing aids, masking devices generate low-level white noise which can help alleviate the perception of tinnitus.

  • High levels of salt and caffeine, as well as nicotine, can cause an increase in tinnitus so actively reducing your intake will help.

Anything you can do to limit your exposure to loud noises is beneficial—moving away from loud sounds, turning down the volume, or wearing earplugs or earmuffs—will help prevent hearing loss and tinnitus or keep it from getting worse. Remember that you only have one set of ears. Treat them poorly and they may fail, protect them and they can last you a lifetime!