10 ways to pamper your ears

When it comes to noise, prevention is key. Audiologist Annelies Bockstael shares her recommendations.

  1. Limit time spent on very loud activities. If you have to raise your voice loudly to make yourself heard by someone one metre away from you, the ambient noise is dangerous for your hearing.
  1. Take breaks without noise to allow your ears to recuperate. For example, after a noisy evening, leave the car radio off, especially if you feel some temporary hearing loss.
  1. Wear well-fitted ear protectors and consult an audiologist as needed. To clarify:
  • Earplugs should not be visible when you look in the mirror. To make sure they fit properly, place your hands over your ears while wearing them: the sound level should not change.
  • Do not reuse disposable earplugs. They can be purchased over the counter in drugstores, but the label must indicate the level of noise reduction in decibels.
  • Soundproof earmuffs and reusable earplugs must be in good condition and perfectly adjusted to your ears.
  1. Set your volume to a reasonable level: car, home, mobile phone. Tip: You should still be able to easily hear ambient sounds.
  1. See a doctor if you’re concerned about your hearing, especially if: you have the feeling others are mumbling, you have trouble following a conversation when there is ambient noise, or if you develop tinnitus.
  1. Pay attention to early and temporarily signs of hearing damage. If you’ve lost hearing after exposure to noise – with or without ear protection – if you experience ringing (tinnitus), or if you feel pressure in your ear, you have been overexposed to noise. If the symptoms disappear very fast, you don’t necessarily need to consult a physician or audiologist. Make sure, however, that it doesn’t happen again: temporary damage can make the ear more vulnerable.
  1. Learn how to prevent auditory damage, for example, by installing acoustic panels or tiles on walls and ceilings.
  1. Organize activities to raise awareness with young children and students, for example, listening to the silence and describing the sounds heard, organizing a zero-noise challenge, etc.
  1. Install a noise indicator in the classroom or room. This type of device indicates sound levels with colours or numbers, increasing awareness in students.
  1. Finally, before taking steps to obtain ear protectors, consult your OHS committee or your union.

1  Annelies Bockstael is an audiologist and professor at École d’orthophonie et d’audiologie in Université de Montréal’s faculty of medicine.

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