Ear Health

Protecting and Caring For Your Ears

Your ears are delicate, irreplaceable instruments. Once hearing is damaged, it often can’t be restored. So give your ears – and your hearing – the same level of care and attention as you do other vital parts of your body. Here are some basic tips that can help:

General Care Tips

  • Have your ears and hearing checked periodically
  • Know the warning signs of hearing loss
  • See a medical professional right away if you injure your ears, experience ear pain, or notice changes in your ears or hearing

Cleaning Your Ears

  • Clean your ears with extra care. Wipe the outer ear with a washcloth or tissue.
  • Never put anything into your ear that’s smaller than an adult finger covered with a washcloth. Using cotton swabs or other small object may damage the sensitive structures of your inner ear
  • Earwax is usually removed by the ear’s own cleaning mechanism. If you have a build-up of excess earwax, see your physician or medical professional.


  • Avoid exposing yourself to loud noise. The best action is to get rid of the noise or leave the noisy area.
  • Follow this simple rule of thumb: if you need to shout to be heard over noise, it’s potentially damaging
  • When you can’t avoid noise, always wear ear protection (earplugs or earmuffs)
  • Be aware that repeated or prolonged exposure to lower noise levels may cause hearing damage
  • Protect the ears of children who are too young to know the dangers that noise can pose

Illness and Medications

  • Reduce the risk of ear infections by treating upper respiratory tract infections promptly
  • Some illnesses and medical conditions can affect your hearing. If you experience sudden hearing loss or persistent noise in your ears or head (tinnitus), see your doctor right away
  • Be aware that certain medications are ototoxic and may damage your hearing. Take medications only as directed, and talk with your doctor immediately if you experience unusual symptoms
  • Stop smoking. Some studies have found that adults who smoke are more likely to develop hearing loss than nonsmokers. Smoking can also aggravate existing conditions, such as tinnitus

At Home

  • Wear personal ear protection (earplugs or earmuffs) when using everyday equipment (such as lawnmowers, power tools, and even some kitchen devices), which may be loud enough to damage your ears.
  • When using stereos and home theater systems, avoid excessive volume. If you think it’s too loud, it probably is.

At Work

  • If you work in a noisy atmosphere, wear personal ear protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs
  • Certain chemicals, such as solvents, can damage your hearing. If you use chemicals in your work, talk with someone in authority about ways to reduce your exposure

At Play

  • Always wear a helmet when you bike, ski, roller blade, or in any other activity that puts you at risk for head and ear injuries
  • At rock concerts, nightclubs, and motor sports events, wear earplugs
  • If you scuba dive, learn and practice proper underwater descent techniques to avoid potentially damaging changes in pressure inside your ears
  • Use caution when setting the volume on personal radios, CD players, and MP3 systems. Even lower volumes can be damaging when you listen over long periods of time. Remove the headphones now and then to give your ears a rest


  • In the car, always wear your seatbelt. In an accident, seatbelts can save your life and help you avoid injury to your head and ears
  • Keep auto sound systems at sensible volumes. This can help you avoid hearing damage and allow you to hear (and yield to) emergency vehicles
  • When you fly, swallow and yawn frequently when the plane is taking off and landing to equalize pressure in your ears. If you have an upper respiratory problem (such as a cold, the flu, or a sinus infection), take a decongestant a few hours before your plane is scheduled to land, or use a decongestant spray just prior to landing


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