Summertime is for pool parties, gardening, barbecues, and trips abroad. Our hearing health may not be the first thing on our minds as we spring into the summer activities, but you will be thankful in the long run if you take some simple steps to protect your ears during this eventful season.
Noise-induced hearing loss, swimmer’s ear, and “popped” ears are a few conditions which can cause discomfort, infection, or, in some cases, hearing loss. So, what can you do to take care of your ears this summer? Read on to read more about how to be proactive in protecting your ears this summer.
For the globe trotter:
When the plane takes off to our vacation destination, we have our whole vacation ahead of us, full of new places and cultures to discover. But the takeoff (and landing) of the airplane can be physically uncomfortable due to the air pressure changes in the airplane cabin. As the airplane climbs higher in the sky, many people often experience a “popping” sensation in their ears, which is caused by air escaping the middle ear. Usually, it can be helpful to swallow, chew, or yawn to help equalize the pressure.
While these methods are usually enough to equalize the pressure, those suffering from ear, nose, or sinus infections may have more trouble equalizing the pressure. An inability to release the pressure can cause pain and discomfort which can continue for hours after landing at your new destination. If you are severely congested, you may want to consider bringing some decongestant nasal drops and use them before takeoff and landing. If you still have a popping sensation in your ears when the plane lands, you can try “pushing” the air out by pinching your nose, closing your mouth and lightly “pushing” the air out through the ears. 
For the concert-goer:
Did you know that the sound levels at concerts reach a range of between 95 to 115 decibels? Hearing loss can be caused by just 85 decibels or higher, so wearing earplugs at a concert is a safe bet for ensuring that your ears are protected. You should be especially careful if you are close to the stage or near the loudspeakers. For this reason, musicians typically wear earplugs too!
Concerts are not the only summer activities which produce sounds above 85 decibels. Motorcycles and sporting events can both reach up to 110 dB. Even lawnmowers can reach 100 dB, and firework shows are the noisiest in the group with a range reaching 160 dB. When finding earplugs for these activities, be sure to do some research and find a pair which makes sense for your lifestyle needs. Since you will probably still want to be able to hear your favourite song or the score of the game, look for earplugs which lower the sound level without blocking out the sound completely. A popular style of earplugs made for this purpose is “high fidelity” earplugs. High fidelity earplugs preserve the original sound quality while lowering the sound level.
For the swimmer:
Summer is an ideal time for those who love to spend time in the water, whether it be at the pool, beach, or lake. If you’re a water lover, you’ll especially enjoy all the opportunities to be by the water this summer. However, increased exposure to water also increases the likelihood of developing an ear condition called “swimmer’s ear”. Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal. It is typically caused by excess moisture in the ear, thereby creating an ideal environment for bacterial growth. Other risk factors for swimmer’s ear include: swimming in water with elevated bacteria levels, a narrow ear canal, aggressive cleaning with cotton swabs, and skin allergies.
In order to prevent swimmer’s ear from developing, try to remember to dry your ears thoroughly after swimming. This can be done by tipping your head to each side to help the water drain out of your ear canal. A rule of thumb is to avoid using cotton swabs in your ear as these typically just push any bacteria deeper into your ear.
You can enjoy your summer activities while still protecting your ears against pain or infection. Take simple precautions such as equalizing air pressure on flights, wearing earplugs during loud outdoor activities, and drying your ears thoroughly after a full day of swimming. Your ears will be better for it, and you will skip the discomfort that comes with ear pain and infections, as well as minimize your risk of developing hearing loss.
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