Ear pain or trouble with your hearing can ruin your plans for fun and relaxation. Do your late summer plans include watching fireworks, traveling, or spending time at the beach or pool? Taking a few precautions will help you avoid these common ear problems.
Your risk of hearing loss increases when your ears are exposed to loud noises, such as those at a concert, fireworks show, or even through your earbuds. Loud noise damages the hair cells in your inner ear. These cells send sound signals to your brain and play an important role in hearing. If the cells are damaged, they can’t transmit the signals.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, you may experience hearing loss if you listen to sounds at 85 decibels for more than 8 hours. Sounds at higher decibel levels can damage your hearing much more quickly.
To avoid temporary or more permanent hearing loss:
- Wear noise-canceling earplugs that decrease the volume, yet still allow you to enjoy concerts and fireworks.
- If other people can hear the music when earbuds are in your ears, it’s time to turn down the volume. Keep it at 60% or lower.
- Earbuds can also make it more difficult for ear wax to naturally move out of your ear if you wear them too often. This can lead to wax build-up, which may cause pain, ringing in the ears, and temporary hearing loss. Don't use earbuds for more than 60 minutes at a time.
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Using earbuds can also increase your risk of an ear infection. Bacteria collects on the surface of the buds if you don’t clean them with a moist cloth or alcohol wipe after each use. Then when you put the earbuds back in your ear, that bacteria can travel into your ear canal and cause problems. Never share earbuds with anyone; this increases the number of bacteria on the earbuds.
An ear infection may also cause problems after a day at the beach or pool. Swimmer’s ear, a painful infection that affects the outer part of the ear canal, can happen if you get water in your ear. Reduce your risk of developing swimmer’s ear by:
- Using waterproof earplugs or swim molds when swimming
- Wearing a bathing cap
- Tilting your head to allow trapped water to drain from your ear canals after exiting the water
- Putting over-the-counter drying drops in your ears after swimming
- Avoiding swimming when the bacteria count is high or the water looks dirty
Will you be traveling on an airplane this summer? Taking off and landing changes the pressure in your ears and can clog them, causing pain and difficulty hearing.
Equalize ear pressure during your flight by:
- Swallowing, yawning, chewing gum, or sucking on candy during takeoff and landing.
- Taking a decongestant or using a decongestant nasal spray 30 minutes to 1 hour before your flight (check with your doctor first before using).
- Using pressure-filtering earplugs that equalize pressure in your ears.
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