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Posted on Monday, June 11, 2012

Protect Your Hearing This Summer

Child wearing waterproof earplugs. It's important to protect hearing during summer activities.

Summer activities like concerts, swimming and diving--especially in colder waters, fireworks, and outdoor yard work like mowing can cause damage to the ears and your hearing. In order to protect your ears from permanent damage caused by summer activities, it is important to know what activities to avoid, when to wear protective earplugs, and when to see an audiologist.

Summer Sounds
The average summer sounds: boats, firecrackers and lawnmowers produce decibel levels that can increase or cause hearing loss and tinnitus. Inside the ear are small, delicate hairs that help conduct the noise that constitutes your hearing. Injury to these hair cells comes from exposure, sudden or prolonged, to loud noises like lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and fireworks at close range. Protecting hearing during these activities by wearing protective listening devices can help prevent hearing loss now and into the future.

Exposure to loud noise can also cause temporary or permanent tinnitus. Tinnitus is defined as a nagging buzzing, whistling, whining, or screeching noise in head or ears that varies in intensity and can be intermittent or constant. Some tinnitus sufferers describe the noise as being as piercing and sharp as the signal used in the emergency broadcast system. An audiologist can create custom made ear protection that allows a person to hear while simultaneously protecting the ears.

Water and the Ears
The presence of fluid in the inner ear can cause hearing loss in addition to other symptoms like ringing in the ears (tinnitus), vertigo, nausea and vomiting. Most of the time water will make its way out of the ear naturally or through home remedies, but occasionally water becomes lodged behind the eardrum causing pain and infection. If left untreated, this infection could cause permanent hearing loss. Especially for children, wearing earplugs when swimming can protect hearing by helping to prevent infections and painful bouts of swimmer's ear.

Barotitis Media is caused by pressure within the ear. One of the reasons for this condition is the difference in pressure on the inside and outside of the eardrum during underwater diving, scuba diving. This pressure or what is called a squeeze can cause the eardrum to burst. There are preventative measures divers can use to to equalize ear pressure and avoid this kind of injury. Make sure to protect your hearing this summer by being properly instructed before undertaking any underwater scuba diving.

Exotosis or Surfer's Ear
The medical term for abnormal bony growth is exotosis. Exotosis of the ear is usually due to exposure of cold water and is commonly known as surfer’s ear. Outgrowth of bone into the external ear canal might sound like something from a horror movie, but exotosis is the body’s way of protecting ears from cold water. This condition is usually more prevalent in one ear than both. Growth of bone constricts the ear canal, making it difficult to drain water, dirt, and ear wax. This inability to allow the ear to clean itself—which is the basic job of ear wax, means that the person with this condition will suffer from repeated ear infections and hearing loss that can be permanent.

Earplugs
Protecting your hearing this summer can be as simple as wearing custom earplugs when mowing, attending concerts, working with machinery or engaging in other noisy activities. Earplugs for water sports and activities can keep water from the ears, protecting your ears while helping to prevent your body reacting to cold water conditions through exotosis. An audiologist can provide custom fit protective molds for your ears. Custom fit means more comfort and a greater chance of use, but that's not the only reason to see an audiologist.

Regular checkups with your audiologist are as important as regular checkups with your eye doctor. Your sense of hearing is a precious gift that needs to be maintained through proper care and prevention. Summer sounds and activities damage hearing, so take precautions and see an audiologist to head off any hearing health problems before they happen. If you don't already have one, click on the link below to find a hearing health provider in your area.

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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