10 Hearing Health Resolutions for 2018

With over 500 million people suffering from hearing loss worldwide, this sensory disorder is so common that many people don’t even realize they have it or don’t believe that it is significant enough to worry about. However, untreated hearing loss does more than reduce your ability to communicate—it can have serious emotional consequences such as depression and alienation, as well as harm your chances of employment or receiving a promotion.

As the New Year continues to move forward, we have compiled a list of the ten best tips to keep your ears safe throughout 2018. Even if you’re already having a hard time following through on some of your other major resolutions this year, these tips are designed to fit comfortably within anybody’s schedule.

1. Turn down the volume!

Constant access to headphones and personal listening devices have made it easy for us to shut out the noise of everyday life and escape into our favorite tunes. While this luxury has many benefits, it can be very dangerous if used irresponsibly. To keep your ears safe from dangerously high levels of noise, try to follow the 60/60 rule: when listening to music through headphones, you should spend no more than 60 minutes with the volume at 60 percent. Additionally, be sure to carry a set of earplugs with you if you know you will be attending a loud event such as a concert—studies have shown that even one night of exposure to sounds above 100 decibels can result in permanent hearing loss or tinnitus.

2. See a Hearing Care Professional

The only way to be prescribed for a hearing aid is with the help of a hearing care professional. If it’s been more than a year since your last hearing exam, you should strongly consider visiting an audiologist or other hearing professional in your area to determine if you have hearing loss. An audiogram will determine any damage your ears have acquired over time and will help your doctor decide the best plan of action for preserving and restoring your hearing. If you have already been diagnosed with a hearing loss and are considering hearing aids, our website is full of resources to help you make the right decision for your ears and your budget.

3. Eat more ear-healthy foods

Most people know you can keep your immune system healthy by boosting your intake of Vitamin C—likewise, there are a number of vitamins and minerals known to reduce the risk of hearing loss and keep your ears functioning optimally. Nutrients such as Omega 3 and Vitamin D, often found in fish, can reduce the risk of age-related hearing loss by up to 42 percent, compared to those who don’t eat seafood. The folic acid, Vitamin C/E, and magnesium in fruits and vegetables such as beans, broccoli, eggs, oranges, bell peppers, artichokes, bananas, and potatoes can help protect the nerve tissue in your ears from potential damage. Other foods that are known to improve hearing health are cashews, beef, oysters, lentils, and dark chocolate, all of which contain high levels of age-defying zinc.

4. Meditate

Many people dealing with tinnitus have reported significant relief after incorporating mindfulness and meditation into their everyday routine. By focusing on calming thoughts and tuning into your body’s most subtle signals, the constant whine of tinnitus will begin to seem less severe. It is also important to expand your listening range to include all of the minor sounds around you, both from within the room and your own body. In this way, you’ll learn to recognize how minimal the tinnitus tone is in proportion to the totality of sounds in your immediate environment.

5. Wear ear protection

Years ago, it may have seemed strange or overly cautious to wear earplugs in public. Today, studies have made the threat of contemporary noise pollution very clear: from subway stations to dance clubs, it can be hard to find some peace and quiet these days. Of course, all of this has drastically negative effects on our hearing, making the need for protection greater than ever. While foam earplugs are cost-effective and sold at most concert venues, we recommend purchasing a pair of reusable silicon plugs that are designed to dampen the decibel level around you without muddying the quality of the sound. In addition, employees who work in high-noise areas should speak with their employers to ensure their work space has been inspected for volume safety. If you suspect that you are being exposed to unsafe noise levels at work, let your employer know immediately, as the law guarantees you the right to proper hearing protection and training.

6. Be honest about your hearing concerns

Nearly 20 percent of Americans (48 million) are estimated to have at least minor hearing loss. Unlike vision loss, which is usually corrected immediately, many people put off treating their hearing loss for years, often until it is too late for significant restoration. If you or someone you know appears to be suffering from a hearing loss, it’s time to have a serious discussion about beginning treatment. Admitting that you or a loved one has a hearing loss can be very difficult, but early treatment has been proven to significantly reduce the effects of ear damage and can sometimes restore hearing to levels that are better than normal.

7. Don’t clean your ears with cotton swabs

If you are one of the millions of people who regularly remove earwax from their ears using a cotton swab, this may be the most urgent resolution in the list. While this activity may seem harmless, the narrow ends of cotton swabs pose a huge threat to your hearing if improperly inserted. For this reason, most packages explicitly warn the customer not to use the cotton swabs in their ears, though this piece of advice is not followed nearly as much as it should be. Instead, consider cleaning your ears with a few drops of hydrogen peroxide or, for best results, visit a hearing care professional who can remove earwax safely and more effectively than a home treatment option.

8. Look into your medications

Have you read up on the side effects of your medication lately? Although rare, some medications have been shown to increase the risk of hearing loss. Ototoxic medications are toxic to the auditory system and can cause hearing loss, tinnitus, balance problems, and other disruptions that may be temporary or permanent. When taken in high doses, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen have been known to cause hearing loss, particularly in adult men. Chemotherapy, certain antibiotics used to treat kidney disease and similar conditions, and diuretics have also been linked to an increased risk of hearing loss. If you are beginning a new medication or are already taking a prescription regularly, please consult a medical professional about the potential for ototoxicity and how to protect your hearing.

9. Exercise

Like all the systems of the body, the ears require a healthy flow of blood and oxygen to operate properly. Regular exercises such as walking, running, or bicycling can increase your circulation and boost your overall cardiovascular health. In addition to keeping your body vitalized and strong, these activities can protect your ears from weakening and becoming vulnerable to inner nerve damage. Before beginning a new exercise routine, you should consult your doctor to make sure you don’t overexert yourself or put yourself at risk for any additional complications.

10. Know the warning signs

Since hearing loss occurs gradually, it can be hard to notice its effects until they have seriously impacted the ability to communicate. Unfortunately, there is no total cure for hearing loss, so it is best handled early with the help of hearing aids and communicative therapy. Given the high amounts of noise in today’s cities and homes, the reality is that more people are at risk of developing hearing loss at a younger age than ever before. Considering all the amazing things our ears do for us, it would be a shame if millions of people unnecessarily lost the ability to hear normally. By educating yourself on the causes of hearing loss and its early warning signs, you can safely and easily protect your ears for years to come.