Spectator Health

Seven ways to protect your ears

3 September 2014

Did you know that ten million people in the UK have some hearing loss? In fact, long-term exposure to sounds that are only as loud as a food processor and just a bit less noisy than a lawnmower can damage your ears.

Here are some easy ways to avoid going deaf – or preserve what hearing you’ve got:

  1. Turn it down. An MP3 player turned up to max can be as loud as a pneumatic drill. Get someone to stand next to you when you’re listening to your iPod. If they can hear it above your earphones, then it’s loud enough to do damage.
  2. Make earplugs your friend. Be kind to your ears when going to a gig by wearing earplugs or investing in a set of music-muffling headphones. And make sure you have earplugs to hand for mowing the lawn.
  3. Floss. Strange as it may seem, looking after your teeth could save your ears. Researchers have found that the more teeth you have when you’re old, the more acute your hearing is likely to be. So brush at least twice a day and floss after every meal.
  4. Keep your blood pressure down. It’s not just your heart that’s at risk if you have hypertension; studies have found that people with high blood pressure are more likely to have hearing loss in old age.
  5. Get moving. Fit people have better hearing than couch potatoes, research has revealed. The same study – of more than 68,000 women in the US –discovered that being overweight increases your risk of deafness.
  6. Don’t smoke. Here’s yet another reasons to give up the ciggies – an American study found that the more cigarette smoke you’re exposed to, the higher your chances of developing age-related hearing loss.
  7. Stop snoring. Or rather, get your sleep apnoea sorted. In a study of 14,000 members of the US Hispanic community, people with the condition (in which breathing is interrupted during sleep) were much more likely to have impaired hearing. But sleep apnoea is treatable, so see your GP if you’re a sufferer.

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Show comments
  • youngscientist

    ‘the more teeth you have when you’re old, the more acute your hearing is likely to be’ – yep, definitely causal, no confounding…

  • artemis in france

    Too late for a lot of us who attended loud rock concerts in small clubs during the sixties and seventies. Most of us have tinitus and some hearing loss. My upper register is severely restricted, not always a bad thing since I can’t hear annoying high-pitched whistles etc., and my husband and I are constantly asking one another to repeat things! But one hears so much négative feedback about aids that so far we’ve resisted them.

    • Flintshire Ian

      Loud music listened to via head phones in the late 1970’s early 80’s almost certainly cost me much of my hearing and I have had to use hearing aids since 1982. I wouldn’t wear two of the old fashioned analogue behind the ear amplifier aids and probably missed much of what was going on until I was in my late 30’s and the digital revolution really began. Modern in the ear aids are pretty well invisible, comfortable and very effective. They aren’t perfect – I have poor sense of sound direction for example, – but they are a lot better than not hearing what is going on. The only issue is of course cost. My two pairs (they do need servicing and repair from time to time) were over £2k each.

  • Lemniscate

    Having all your teeth in old age may well be correlated with better hearing, but it doesn’t mean teeth prevent hearing loss. Having all your teeth is probably correlated with generally better health, including better hearing. Most of the advice given in this article will probably do nothing specific for your hearing.

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