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Seven effective habits to prevent hearing loss



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April 18, 2012 - Hearing loss is common, but the perception that hearing loss is only caused by aging is incorrect. More than 36 million American have hearing loss. Changing lifestyle habits, and treating a variety of health conditions can help to prevent hearing loss.

Seven healthy habits may help prevent or delay the onset of hearing loss.

1. Noise

Noise-induced hearing loss is the most common yet preventable cause of hearing loss. Exposure to dangerous levels of noise can occur at work, home and in many recreational activities. Wear ear plugs or muffs when operating loud equipment (i.e., lawn mowers, power saws, leaf blower, etc.) or when using firearms. Buy quieter products (compare dB ratings advertised on the products - the smaller the better).

2. iPod/MP3 Players

Listening to MP3 players at dangerous levels can cause permanent hearing loss. You can download apps to ensure noise exposure through your iPod does not exceed dangerous decibel levels. "Volume Limit" is a switch in the "settings" section of your iPhone or iPod to make sure that your hearing is protected. This allows you to set a maximum level for the volume output of the media player and even put a 4-digit code on it to keep it fixed.

3. Diabetes

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has found that hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes. Furthermore, of the 79 million adults with prediabetes, the rate of hearing loss is 30 percent higher than in those with normal blood sugar levels. Moderate weight loss, eating healthy and exercise can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes among adults at-risk for diabetes.

4. Smoking

Smoking is a risk factor for hearing loss. Smokers are nearly 70 percent more likely than nonsmokers to suffer hearing loss. Exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke almost doubles the risk of hearing loss among adolescents. Studies show that smoking, age and noise exposure together increase the risk for hearing loss more than each of these factors alone.

5. Cardiovascular disease

Not only does exercise help to prevent type 2 diabetes, but cardiovascular health and hearing health appear associated. Growing evidence suggests a link between hearing loss and poor cardiovascular health.

6. Earwax (Cerumen)

Don't swab your ear canals. Cerumen cleans and lubricates the skin of the ear canal and provides protection from bacteria, fungi, insects and water. Attempting to remove cerumen or cleaning the ear canal with a cotton swab tends to push earwax deeper into the ear canal. Excess or impacted cerumen can press against the eardrum and/or occlude the external auditory canal resulting in hearing loss.

7. See an audiologist

Susceptibility to hearing loss is often undiagnosed and unrecognized. The Audiology Awareness Campaign, a nonprofit foundation aimed at providing the public with information on hearing loss, is sponsoring the fifth annual Listen Up America Week, National Hearing Screening Week, May 14 to 18, where audiologists will offer free hearing screenings nationwide.

Call (888) 833-EARS (3277) or visit www.audiologyawareness.com to find an audiologist in your area.

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