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Hearing damage is something we often don't think about and associate only with aging. Once hearing damage occurs, however, it often can't be fully restored. Whether it's excessive noise, infections, or injury, there are plenty of dangers to your ears and hearing, but luckily most of them can be easily avoided with the right precautions.
Your ears are self-cleaning. That doesn't mean they never need cleaning, but the deep dive many people do with cotton swabs is unnecessary and can even cause some damage.
Some tips on general care and cleaning:
The most important part of general ear care, though, is making sure to incorporate it into your medical visits. Have your primary care physician check your ears during regular checkups. Consult a medical professional if you injure your ears, have ear pain, or notice unusual bumps or scaly areas on your ears, as well as any change in hearing.
Children are particularly susceptible to ear infections, as their immune systems are still developing. Those under 3 also have smaller Eustachian tubes (which link the nasopharynx, part of the throat, to the middle ear), blockages in which make it easier to develop infections and earaches.
Ear infections tend to occur in the fall and winter, because upper respiratory infections like the common cold or flu can easily bring them on. Allergies can too. Here are some tips on protecting your child from ear infections:
The most obvious danger to ears is excessive noise levels. Long or repeated exposure to sounds of 85 decibels or louder is enough to cause hearing loss over time. Examples of loudness at or above this level include:
Hearing protection is vital, especially if you have a commute in a congested area, drive a loud vehicle like motorcycles or snowmobiles, go to loud events like concerts or sporting events, or work in an industrial or construction occupation. Earbuds from your phone don't offer hearing protection! You need proper earplugs. If you're engaged in long work with loud machinery, use firearms for recreation, or have a noisy work environment, you should opt for stronger hearing protection. Consider noise reduction safety earmuffs.
It's important to know the warning signs of hearing loss, especially as you age or if you're in a career where loud noise levels are common. You may not notice some of these signs, as many of them are normal behavior in loud or distracting atmospheres. But if you notice yourself exhibiting these symptoms frequently or in multiples, consult a medical professional.
Some of the signs: