Article by Hearing Partners, contributed by Sadrina Shah, Clinical Audiologist at Hearing Partners
The importance of maintaining your hearing health cannot be overstated.
Hearing loss often leads to a host of negative consequences such as depression, social isolation, strained relationships and cognitive decline. Fortunately, there are several ways to ensure your hearing remains in good condition for years to come.
Learn more about the factors affecting your hearing health, as well as the exercises you can practise to help maintain your auditory health and manage common issues such as tinnitus.
Factors Affecting Hearing Health
Here are some of the common factors that could potentially affect your hearing health:
|Age||The gradual loss of hair cells in the inner ear can cause hearing loss.|
|Genetics||Individuals may be born with certain genes that naturally increase the likelihood of hearing loss.|
|Medical conditions||Certain medical conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease can lead to hearing loss. In addition, certain ototoxic medications may also harm one’s hearing abilities.|
|Exposure to noise||Frequent exposure to loud noises can damage the inner ear and result in permanent hearing loss.|
|Buildup of earwax||The excessive buildup of earwax can prevent the ear from picking up sounds, leading to hearing difficulties.|
|Stress||Increased levels of stress can result in muscle tension and increased blood pressure which can negatively impact hearing health.|
Exercises to Maintain Your Hearing Health
Ensuring that your ear receives sufficient blood flow is one crucial aspect of maintaining your hearing health and relieving some symptoms of tinnitus.
With proper blood circulation, the inner ear will receive adequate oxygen and nutrients, allowing it to function well. On the other hand, poor blood flow can cause damage to your ears and result in hearing loss.
In addition, incorporating mental, sound localisation and vocal exercises into your daily routine can have a positive impact on your hearing health.
1. Cardiovascular exercises
Engaging in regular cardiovascular exercises such as running, cycling and swimming can be a great way to ensure your hearing remains in excellent condition.
Physical activity helps to improve blood circulation throughout the body, such as the ears, which reduces the risk of hearing loss.
Symptoms of tinnitus can also be managed effectively with frequent aerobic exercise.
2. Neck stretches
Muscle tension in the neck can cause tinnitus. By stretching your neck muscles, you can improve blood circulation to the ears and alleviate symptoms of tinnitus.
Here’s a routine you can follow to stretch your neck safely:
- Before stretching your neck, ensure that your back is straight and your shoulders are relaxed.
- Stretch the left side of your neck by bringing your right ear towards your right shoulder.
- Hold the position for 20 seconds.
- Stretch the right side of your neck by bringing your left ear towards your left shoulder.
- Keep the stretch for 20 seconds.
- Stretch the back of your neck by bringing your chin towards your chest.
- Maintain the position for 20 seconds.
- Stretch the front of your neck by tilting your head backwards.
- Count to 20, before taking a short break.
- Repeat steps 2 – 9 as many times as you feel necessary.
3. Deep breathing exercises
Aside from improving oxygenation of the blood and circulation around the entire body, deep breathing exercises also help with reducing the perception of tinnitus.
Follow these steps for the best results:
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable place, such as your bed or the sofa.
- Close your eyes and inhale deeply through your nose.
- Hold your breath for a couple of seconds before slowly exhaling via your mouth.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 as many times as necessary.
For maximum results, your mind and body should be in a state of relaxation during this exercise.
4. Sound localisation exercises
Sound localisation is the ability to determine the location of a sound in a given space.
Regularly practising sound localisation exercises can help with maintaining your hearing health as your brain is trained to accurately locate sounds and distinguish between different sound sources.
You can carry out this exercise by listening to music and walking around while attempting to distinguish and separate various sounds.
5. Vocal exercises
Regular singing practice and vocal exercises can improve hearing health by enhancing auditory processing abilities, including pitch perception. If you experience hearing difficulties, this can potentially make hearing easier for you.
Singing also has various added benefits such as the release of endorphins, reduction of stress and greater mental alertness – all of which can lead to better health and cognitive function overall.
6. Speech-in-noise Exercises
Speech-in-noise exercises involve listening to speech recordings or engaging in conversations with background noise present. These exercises begin with low levels of noise and gradually increase in difficulty. Their purpose is to enhance one’s ability to comprehend speech in challenging environments.
Various online auditory programmes are available to facilitate speech-in-noise training. Some also provide tests to easily measure your ability to understand speech in noisy environments.
7. Mental exercises
Engaging in mental exercises can improve your brain’s ability to process and identify sounds. Activities like Sudoku and crosswords can encourage the development of healthy brain tissue and neural connections, which are necessary for processing sensory information and maintaining hearing health.
In addition, keeping the brain in top shape through regular exercise also helps to prevent brain degeneration.
Bonus Tips to Maintain Your Hearing Health
Exercise aside, here are some other tips to help manage any symptoms of tinnitus and maintain your hearing health.
Maintain a healthy diet
A diet that’s chock-full of vitamins and minerals can help to support overall ear health. Leafy vegetables, poultry, fish, nuts and whole grains are some foods you should be consuming for a well-balanced diet.
Foods that are rich in vitamin B, zinc and magnesium are also important in maintaining your hearing health.
Maintain good oral hygiene
Dental issues such as poor oral hygiene, gum disease, decay and cavities in the tooth can lead to hearing loss and other ear-related problems. When dental plaque builds up, bacteria can enter the bloodstream and accumulate in the blood vessels of the inner ear.
As such, it’s important to brush and floss your teeth regularly and to visit your dentist for regular checkups.
Avoid excessive moisture in your ears
Excess moisture in the ear can cause a host of ear-related issues. Some of these include:
- Growth and accumulation of bacteria which leads to infections such as Swimmer’s Ear
- Buildup of earwax
As such, ensuring your ears are kept clean and dry is crucial in maintaining your hearing health.
Avoid digging your ears
Much has been said and written about whether practices such as ear digging and ear candling are safe. According to professionals, cleaning the insides of your ear canal with external objects such as cotton buds isn’t recommended, as this can cause further blockages and damage to the ear.
To remove any excess earwax safely, you should seek out proper ear wax removal services.
Avoid smoking or inhaling smoke
Exposure to cigarette smoke, whether direct or indirect, can have an impact on one’s hearing health. This is because smoke can damage the blood vessels and tissues in the inner ear.
Reduce exposure to loud noises
Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) can result from both one-off exposure and frequent or prolonged exposure to loud noises.
While loud noises cannot always be avoided, you can follow certain practices to ensure your ears get as much protection as possible:
- Use earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones to reduce the amount of noise entering your ears.
- Be mindful of the volume when listening to music or watching television
- Keep a safe distance from sources of loud noises if possible, such as construction sites
- Give your ears regular breaks if you’re exposed to loud noises for an extended period of time
Schedule regular hearing tests
Regular hearing tests can help to detect cases of hearing loss at an early stage. This allows doctors to intervene promptly, which can help prevent further damage to the ear.
For those who are curious, or simply want to do a quick test at home, an online hearing test can provide a rough indication of your hearing health and sensitivity.
FAQs on Maintaining Your Hearing Health
Why is it important to maintain my hearing health?
There are many reasons why it’s important to maintain your hearing health:
- Allows effective communication with others, which is essential for building relationships
- Promotes emotional well-being by reducing the risk of depression, anxiety and isolation
- Improves your quality of life as you get to enjoy activities like listening to music
- Ensures your safety as you’re able to hear warning signals and alarms
- Protects against cognitive decline and related conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia
Is it possible to prevent age-related hearing loss?
Although age-related hearing loss is a common phenomenon, you can reduce your risk by taking certain measures. These include practices such as safeguarding your ears from loud noises, managing health conditions that can exacerbate hearing loss and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Is it possible to improve my ear health?
While it may not be possible to improve your hearing ability per se, you can still take active steps to improve your listening skills and prevent hearing loss.