What do hair dryers, iPods and lawn mowers have in common? They generate enough noise to hurt your hearing - and it happens more often than you think.
A recent study estimates nearly one in five Americans over age 12 have significant hearing loss. Aging is a common cause; heredity, certain medications and illnesses can raise your risk as well; some statistics show more than 20 million adults have permanently damaged their hearing from exposure to loud sounds. Try these steps to help protect your ears:
Lower the volume: Before you crank up your favorite tune, consider this: Long or repeated exposure to more than 85 decibels (dB) can cause hearing loss. An iPod Shuffle on max has been measured at 115 dB, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology. Studies have shown that using MP3 players at loud volumes may lead to hearing loss. The louder the noise, the less time it takes to do damage.
Plug your ears: Anyone regularly exposed to loud noise needs to wear ear plugs or earmuffs. Even one-time exposure to very loud noises can harm your ears permanently.
Skip cotton swabs: Instead of cleaning wax out of their ears, many people end up pushing it deeper into the ear canal which leads to wax blockage, a common cause of hearing loss. If the wax gets impacted, you might get an earache or partial hearing loss.
Get tested: Regular testing can help detect problems early; knowing you've lost hearing means you can take steps to prevent further damage.
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