Top tips for preventing hearing loss and damage

If you’re having trouble hearing, you are not alone.

The State of Hearing Report 2019, which surveyed over 7000 people in five countries, including Australia, discovered almost half of those taking part have a close family member with moderate to profound hearing loss, and 86% say this affects relationships with loved ones.

5 common signs of hearing loss

  1. Difficulty hearing when there’s background noise.
  2. Trouble following conversations.
  3. Trouble hearing people unless they are facing you.
  4. Having the TV turned up louder than other people.
  5. Constant buzzing or ringing in the ears.

What are the current treatment options for hearing loss in Australia? 

In addition to standard removable hearing aids, there are state-of-the-art surgically implanted devices such as cochlear implants and bone-anchored hearing aids. Now, scientists from Melbourne’s Bionics Institute and the University of Melbourne are working on a treatment that uses nanoparticles to deliver drugs deep inside the ear.

“We’ve developed a drug delivery system that we think will enable the delivery of therapeutics that can repair some of the damage that has occurred in the inner ear due to ageing or to exposure to noise over time,” says lead researcher Associate Professor Andrew Wise. While not quite ready to test on humans, he adds: “We’re at an exciting phase of the research.”

As most types of hearing loss are permanent, prevention is key. We asked Professor Catherine McMahon, head of audiology in the Department of Linguistics at Macquarie University, for her advice.

5 hearing health tips from Professor Catherine McMahon

  1. Get your hearing checked: It is recommended that the over 50s get their hearing checked every couple of years. See your GP. There are also free apps and websites that let you test your hearing – try out the government’s free hearing test here.
  2. Wear noise-cancelling headphones: When using earpieces, you turn the sound up to a comfortable level above the background noise. By reducing the amount of noise that reaches your ears, using in-ear or on-ear noise-cancelling headphones, you can turn down the overall sound level.
  3. Take a sound break: Move away from loud noise or use earplugs in noisy environments to dampen the overall level – for example when mowing the lawn or attending a live concert. Earplugs are also useful in cinemas, which often have loud surround sound.
  4. Be aware of your sound exposure: Hearing damage is cumulative, so take notice of the noise around you. Use an app such as the NIOSH (US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) Sound Level Meter to monitor your exposure.
  5. Tailor music to your hearing: This means not just increasing the overall sound level, but ‘shaping’ it to get the clearest sound for your ears. Audio personalisation specialist Mimi Hearing Technologies adapts sounds to suit your individual hearing profile; it’s available across a range of devices.

Looking after your health and wellbeing gets more important as you get older, so take the time out of your schedule to look after yourself, and always talk to your GP with any concerns or questions.