Can't live without your earphones? Six easy steps to care for your ears, prevent hearing damage and loss

This is especially true for those who love to plug in their earphones and listen to any music, movie, podcast or audiobook for long durations and at a loud volume.

Myupchar July 20, 2020 13:34:44 IST
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Can't live without your earphones? Six easy steps to care for your ears, prevent hearing damage and loss

Imagine a world where you can’t hear the chirping of birds, the babbling of a child, the laughter of a loved one or your favourite songs. If it feels like a dull and dangerous world — and one that you want to avoid at any cost — then you should know that hearing damage and loss are real possibilities for everyone.

Why ear care is important

This is especially true for those who love to plug in their earphones and listen to any music, movie, podcast or audiobook for long durations and at a loud volume.

“In a world where personalisation is at a premium, we all are pretty much dependent on our smartphones and earphones whether at work, at play, with our online meetings or our social media accounts,” says Dr Aparna Mahajan, Consultant-ENT, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad. “What is coming under a lot of wear and tear is our eyes and ears. Enough advice is doled out on how to look after our eyes, but ears are often ignored.”

“We all get our eyes tested, but testing our hearing has not really caught on,” Dr Mahajan says. “But, it is a must. The earlier one catches hearing loss, the more likely it can be addressed.” This is in fact, even more important now because, as Dr Mahajan points out, “prolonged exposure to loud noise and music is not conducive to healthy hearing, and can lead to hearing loss.” What can you do to minimise the risk of hearing damage and loss? Keep the following ear care tips in mind.

1. Lower the volume

A study published in Noise and Health (2017) indicates that people who listen to 90 decibels (dB) or 100dB sound levels for prolonged periods of time (including when they sleep) are at the greatest risk of cochlear damage and hearing impairment due to it. So, it’s very important that you maintain the sound level of 60dB at all times on all of your devices. The maximum volume you should go to is 80dB. A normal conversation is around 60dB.

2. Reduce the duration 

The longer the duration, the more harm you’re doing. An Indian study in Noise and Health (2009) showed that more than 30 percent of the test subjects listened to music above the safety limits (which is set at 80dB) for eight hours. If you’re crossing either or both these limits, you’re clearly risking hearing damage and loss. So, lessen the duration, take breaks and keep reducing the volume as your duration of usage increases.

3. Choose the right device 

A study in the Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences in 2002 explained how prolonged earphone usage creates an environment of high temperature and humidity in the ear canal, which is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungus. A single cut or abrasion in this area can lead to outer ear infections. Picking an earphone with soft earbuds would reduce the risk of these infections to a degree.

4. Clean your ears

Your ears have a natural cleaning system, which is how earwax is formed. “Earwax is nature’s way of taking care of our sound receptors,” Dr Mahajan says. “Normally earwax clears out on its own.” But studies have shown that use of earphones and earplugs can lead to a hardened buildup of earwax, cleaning out which can be difficult. “The stubborn earwax variety can be coaxed with some drops of olive oil, almond oil or coconut oil in the ear. Ears are simple to take care of if you don’t poke things into them,” she says. “Keep the pencils for writing and hairpins in your hair.”

5. Clean your earphones

“Earphone etiquette requires us to clean our earphones regularly,” Dr Mahajan says. Clean the earphones as per the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid a buildup of dust, microbes and any other substances. Dispose of earphones which have rusted metallic parts.

6. Get tested

“New smartphone apps now measure and calibrate noise levels,” says Dr Mahajan, so using them to keep a check on your auditory health is as important as consulting a doctor when required. “If your ears remain blocked for over five days, go to an ENT,” she insists. “Even the mighty crumble in the face of the humble ear infection. So, reach out to specialists and take their advice, and don’t just ask the pharmacist for ear drops instead.”

For more information, read our article on Hearing damage and loss due to earphone use.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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