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1 in 6 Americans experience hearing loss, often later on in life as a result of not protecting those ears. Hearing loss can greatly affect daily life making social interaction harder and damaging relationships as communication becomes more difficult. A lot of factors can damage are hearing. Here are some the main ways that you can look after your ears and stop your sense of hearing from deteriorating.

Wear ear protection in loud environments

If you work in an environment in which the volume is often over 85 decibels, it could be worth wearing earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones, as this is the noise level in which damage can take place. Such environments include construction sites, airports, nightclubs, live music venues, factories and shooting ranges. Many of these workplaces will give the option to wear ear protection, however they may not enforce it. Don’t take the risk of not wearing these just because other staff members aren’t wearing them – you’ll almost certainly receive hearing loss later on in life.

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Don’t listen to music too loud

Listening to your music too loudly over a sustained period could also cause damage. The two times in which this damage is most likely to occur include listening to music on headphones (some phones will now tell you when you’re listening to music too loud) and in the car (turning up your music to mask the sound of the engine whilst travelling at high speed could be causing damage, as the sound of the engine is likely already nearing 85 decibels).

Have a hearing detox

After sustained periods of loud noise, having a break from the loudness could be beneficial, giving your ears time to repair themselves. This should ideally be 16 hours of rest. Consider this after a night out clubbing, attending a concert or a shift working in a loud environment.

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Be careful with q-tips

Growing research is finding cotton swabs to be harmful, as they push earwax further into your ear occasionally damaging the eardrum. They’ve also been known to lead to infections. You’re best off not using q-tips and instead rinsing your ears out with water every time you’re in the shower.

Take action as soon as hearing loss occurs

80% of those with hearing loss do nothing about it. This can lead to further damage as you are continuously straining your ears. It’s also been linked to the development of cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Hearing aids are the best defence against hearing loss. You can consult your doctor, a specialist clinic or even an optician (many also specialise in hearing) to get one fitted.

Occasionally infections or blockages may also cause hearing loss. This may only be temporary – it’s best to always visit a doctor straight away who may be able to prescribe antibiotics or unblock your ear with water. Those experiencing pain in their ears should definitely not delay a visit to the doctors.