Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in this country, behind only arthritis and heart disease, so it’s apparent that a great many people are finding it difficult to maintain good hearing health by the time they reach their later years. It is especially important that good hearing health be observed because a number of studies have discovered a strong link between reduced hearing capability and dementia.

Once people in their later years have experienced a significant level of hearing loss, they tend to become less social and less engaged with others, and this is one of the primary triggers for the development of dementia. That being the case, it just makes good sense for every American to do whatever is possible to maintain good hearing health, both for the present and for senior years.

While nothing you can do will really guarantee that your hearing remains extremely good as a senior, there are some things you can do which will increase your chances of maintaining good hearing throughout your life. Below are described a few simple things that everyone can do to have a better chance of retaining optimal hearing, now in the future.

Avoid Loud Noises

It’s important to have an understanding of the sound level of your environment, as well as any special environments you walk into. Some of these scenarios include rock concerts, construction sites, and loud noises from city traffic. When you are exposed to situations like these, it’s a good idea to wear ear protection such as foam plugs, which will reduce the level of noise which reaches the middle ear. Keep in mind that anytime your ears are exposed to a situation where extremely loud noises are present, it takes at least 16 hours of quiet in order for the ears to recover from the sensory experience.

By placing either a rubber plug or a foam plug in your outer ear, the level of noise can be reduced by as much as 30 dB, thereby sparing the middle ear from significant damage. If you work in a setting which has a consistent level of relatively loud noise, it would be a good idea to take periodic breaks, so that your ears have recovery time.

Most people enjoy listening to music on their phones, and to personalize the experience, headphones or earbuds are generally used. If you are in this category, you should make a point of keeping the volume on your device to either low or midrange, especially if you’re going to have the earbuds in place for a prolonged period of time.

If you set the volume on high, you run a risk of causing damage to your ears, especially if this is something you do daily, and for several hours each day.

Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle

A number of studies have linked heart health with hearing health, and it has even been said that the ear is the window to the heart. Being physically active is a great way to maintain heart health, and to keep the heart muscle strong, so as to avoid the many different kinds of disease and other issues which can impact the heart.

A regular program of exercise that benefits the heart will also indirectly benefit your ears, so making exercise a priority is a good idea. However, before you embark on any strenuous program of exercise, make sure to consult with your doctor, so that you can be sure of activities which are appropriate to your age and to your health status.

One other factor related to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is that you should quit cigarette smoking, and if you haven’t yet started, make sure that you don’t. Researchers have found that cigarette smoking may have a direct bearing on hearing because it affects antioxidative mechanisms as well as the vasculature which supplies the entire auditory system.

Good Ear Care

Avoid physical damage as much as possible by resisting the temptation to put things into your ears, even seemingly harmless objects like Q-tips. If your ear canal becomes scratched somehow, your hearing is likely to be degraded. Sharp objects should never be put into the ears, because these can cause scratches, and can even puncture the eardrum, in addition to causing hearing loss.

You should make a point of removing earwax regularly because any kind of buildup will cause the sound to be muffled. However, care must be used in removing earwax, because cotton swabs may have the undesirable effect of pushing the earwax further into the ear canal, and that may necessitate professional expertise in removing it.

Have your hearing checked periodically so that you are aware of any incremental hearing loss since your last checkup. As a general rule, less than 15% of Americans actually have their hearing checked during their annual physical exam – and yet as mentioned above, hearing loss is the third most common health complaint in the country.

There are certain medications which can cause damage to the ear, especially those medicines taken by older adults routinely. Prescription medications should all be checked by your doctor to make sure they won’t have any impact on your hearing health.

Whenever you suspect that you are observing a sign of hearing loss, it should be reported to your doctor for further examination. Some of these warning signals might include speech which sounds muffled, difficulty interpreting conversation, or frequently requesting others to talk louder.

Sometimes you may have difficulty hearing certain consonants, and this may prompt you to avoid conversations. Be aware that such behaviors can be warning signs of hearing loss, and any sign of reduced hearing health should be checked out at an early stage, so it doesn’t have a chance to become significantly worse.