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10 Ways to Protect Your Hearing

What to do — and not do — to keep your ears safe and your hearing sharp

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    Take Steps Now

    En español | When you experience any hearing loss it can catch you by surprise. But there is much you can do to cut the risks. Here are 10 tips to help you protect your ears and your hearing.

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    Keep the Blood Pumping

    Cardio exercise — walking, running, cycling — helps to improve blood flow to your ears, which is good for your hearing. Wear a helmet for biking because a fall that results in concussion can harm your hearing.

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    Take a Time-Out

    If you’re surrounded by constant loud noise — at a music club or bar or even in a sports stadium — step outside for five minutes once every hour to give your ears a break.

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    Block Out Noise

    Earplugs do more than dull the sound of a snoring spouse. They can protect your ears from the loud noise of machinery like lawn mowers and power tools. Comfortable plugs and noise-canceling headphones are widely available in stores and online.

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    Make It Music to Your Ears

    If you listen to music with earphones, switch to headphones, which provide better sound quality at a lower volume. Follow the 60/60 rule: 60 percent of maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes at a time. When you listen to music in an enclosed space, such as a car, turn the volume down a couple of notches.

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    Keep Your Ears Dry

    Excess moisture can allow bacteria to attack the ear canal; towel-dry your ears thoroughly after bathing or swimming, or remove water by tilting your head to the side and tugging the ear lobe. Be aware that various organisms that contaminate water in pools, lakes, hot tubs and oceans can lead to infection or illness.

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    Remove Excess Wax — Carefully

    Ears need a certain amount of wax for protection. But if you feel you have excess wax in your ears, use an earwax removal kit over the course of a couple of nights. The solution will soften the earwax, and it will flow out.

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    Mind Your Meds

    Some drugs can be ototoxic (toxic to the ear, potentially causing hearing loss). They include certain diuretic, chemotherapeutic and anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications — and even salicylates (such as aspirin). Take all medications as directed, and report any unusual side effects to your doctor.

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    Defend Against Illnesses

    Among the many diseases and conditions related to hearing loss are diabetes, underactive thyroid, Lyme disease, high blood pressure, measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, meningitis and syphilis. Where vaccines are available, the CDC offers guidelines for adult immunizations.

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    Decide Now's the Time

    Some of our everyday pleasures (and vices) can affect hearing. Alcohol, caffeine and even stress can make tinnitus (a ringing in the ears) more noticeable. Sodium increases fluid retention, which can lead to swelling in the inner ear. People who smoke (or are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke) are more likely to experience age-related hearing loss.

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    Fly Comfortably

    Everyone knows what ears feel like when a plane drops in elevation. Simple yawning and swallowing generally “pop” the ears and equalize the pressure on both sides of the eardrum. But if you have more trouble, try either a nasal spray or an oral decongestant before the descent to avoid a condition called barotrauma, which can damage the eardrum, middle ear or inner ear structures.

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