What can I do to protect my hearing?
Preventative medicine is always the best medicine. It is important to protect the ears from excessive noise exposure. Even when mowing the lawn or using a power saw, ear protectors should be worn. The advice of a physician or trained and certified audiologist is often helpful in selecting appropriate ear protectors. Pieces of cotton or paper towel (or spent bullet casings) stuffed in the ears are generally inadequate. It is important to be aware of recreational noise sources, including music. With personal portable music systems, if the person standing next to you can tell what you are listening to through ear phones, the music is probably too loud. We commonly encounter incurable cases of tinnitus and high frequency hearing loss cases by use of these devices. They need not be avoided, but “common sense” should govern their use.
Having reviewed many (but certainly not all) of the health problems that may adversely affect the ear, it is clear that maintenance of good general health is important to the ear as well as to the rest of the body. Maintaining appropriate blood pressure, healthy eating and exercise habits, and close surveillance on bodily health (such as annual physical examination) are extremely helpful. If there is reason to suspect hearing loss such as with a strong family history, hearing tests should be included in the physical examination so that hearing problems can be recognized and addressed early.
Like so many other things, we never appreciate the value of hearing until it is lost. Through sensible preventative measures, many potential causes of hearing loss can be eliminated. When hearing loss occurs, its progression can sometimes be prevented or slowed. In every case, early diagnosis and optimal management minimize the psychological and social trauma so common in people with hearing impairment. Maintaining contact with a physician specializing in hearing is wise for any patient with hearing impairments. Apart from all the things we have learned in the last decade or two, hearing experts are constantly working to learn more about the conditions we don’t understand, yet. Even for patients we can’t cure today, there is always hope for tomorrow.