How to Protect Your Hearing After Hearing Loss

2. Keep in touch with your hearing care providers.

Clare M. Villanueva, an audiologist affiliated with NYU Langone Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, recommends that hearing aid wearers see their hearing specialists at least once a year — sooner, if necessary — for a reevaluation of their hearing needs.

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“Hearing aids might need to be adjusted, especially if the hearing care provider does another hearing test and finds the results differ from earlier ones,” Villanueva says. The hearing care provider might also determine that the hearing aids need servicing or should be replaced.

Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids became available in 2022 for those with mild to moderate hearing loss. They tend to be much less expensive than prescription hearing aids. If you are using over-the-counter hearing aids, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations about the possible need for adjustments. You also may need to contact an audiologist to have your hearing aids adjusted.

3. Use protective earmuffs.

Earmuffs like the ones worn by airport workers on the tarmac can be helpful for protecting your hearing during trying situations — concerts, busy airports, planes or trains or subways, and even when you or a neighbor mows the lawn or uses power tools. (Furry earmuffs will keep your ears warm, but you need the ones designed to cancel out harmful noise.)

Be aware that noise-canceling headphones are not earmuffs and should not be used in their place. Earmuffs, which cover the ear completely, can cost from less than $20 up to hundreds of dollars depending on their noise reduction rating (NRR), which represents the average decibels of sound it can reduce if worn properly. “The higher the NRR the better. Look for an NRR of around 30 dB. You always see airport workers and often construction workers wearing them to preserve their hearing,” Rout says. If you wear hearing aids, “remove them when using the earmuff,” he says.

The reasoning for this is twofold. First, if you wear an earmuff over the hearing aid, there is a greater likelihood of hearing audible feedback (squealing). Second, in loud environments, for example when lawn mowers are used and at construction sites, hearing aids are not effective in amplifying speech over the noise, Rout says.

4. Keep ear protection, such as earplugs, in your purse or pocket.

For those times when noise becomes uncomfortable or unbearable — such as on a subway, at a ballgame or in an amusement park — take out your hearing aids and use foam or silicon earplugs to reduce the noise. Inexpensive ones are available at drugstores. Another option is to use more expensive noise-reducing earplugs, which many musicians use. If you’ve been to a live concert recently and up close to the stage, you might notice that most of the musicians wear ear protection.

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