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5 steps to healthy ears and hearing

October 3, 2018

It’s a wonder your ears work at all, with all they have to deal with.

Every day, your ears are bombarded with noises, environmental contaminants and germs. Luckily for humans, these remarkable body parts work very well, despite the daily barrage. However, they may not stay so trusty over the years if you don’t care for them properly.

“Hearing loss is a significant public health issue, with 48 million Americans experiencing some form of hearing problem,” said Kim Spencer, marketing director of Listen Technologies, a Utah-based company specializing in listening products. “Some hearing issues can be prevented or solved, so talk to your doctor about your ears at your next checkup.”

Taking care of your ears is important for their long-term health. That doesn’t mean you should give them a good scrubbing with a cotton swab every day.

Here are five things you should (and shouldn’t) do to keep your ears healthy:

Get immunizations

While getting recommended immunizations can help prevent various illnesses, many people may not realize that those same immunizations can also help prevent hearing loss. Some diseases, like measles, mumps and rubella, can cause people to lose hearing.

An annual flu shot can also help protect people from the flu and related ear infections that can cause hearing damage. Young or old, we all need to stay up to date on our immunizations if we want to keep hearing into our golden years.

Use ear tubes

Ear tubes are not a necessity for most children, but for those who seem to get ear infections nonstop, they may help keep their ears healthy. Young children who have chronic ear infections or fluid in their ears that does not drain may be good candidates for ear tubes. The small tubes are inserted into the eardrum to help drain fluid into the ear canal. Insertion of ear tubes should result in fewer ear infections, and the tubes will fall out on their own in a year or two.

Protect from loud noises

Exposure to loud noises briefly or for prolonged periods can result in permanent hearing loss. Protect your hearing by being aware of loud noises in your environment and covering your ears or moving away from the noise. Be sure to protect the ears of young children who are unable to do so themselves.

Spencer Eaton, executive director of Pinnacle Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, has worked with many people with some degree of hearing loss and knows that prevention is always preferable to treatment. “Everyday noises can cause significant hearing damage,” he said. “Always wear proper ear protection when your ears will be exposed to loud noises, even for a short amount of time.”

Don’t scrub

Cleaning ears out is a common personal care ritual, but experts say people should just leave their ears alone. Foreign objects, even cotton swabs, should never be inserted into the ear canal. Putting objects in the ear canal can cause irritation and injury, and it often just pushes ear wax further into the canal. The best way to clean ears is to leave them alone. Ear wax is a necessary component of the ears, and ears are made to clean themselves by moving the wax out of the canal to the outer ear.

Don’t smoke

Hearing loss is one of the many risks associated with smoking. Compared to nonsmokers, smokers have a 70 percent higher chance of having hearing loss. The risk extends to nonsmokers who are exposed to smoke; people who live with a smoker are twice as likely to have hearing loss as those who do not. Stop smoking, or don’t start, to protect your hearing and the hearing of the people around you.

Our hearing is a great asset that many people might not think about much until it’s gone. Keep these five tips in mind to help your ears stay healthy throughout your life.

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