Trust Your Partner
Here's the thing about hearing loss: How do you know you can't hear something if you don't know what you're missing? So if your partner tells you that your ears seem clogged, resist the temptation to fight back with, "Yeah, and so are your pores." It may feel like nagging at the time, but your partner's frustration with repeatedly repeating is very often the first sign that you should have a medical checkup.
Get the Wax Out
You probably grew up thinking cotton swabs were the ultimate wax removers. But you've heard it before (assuming you're not suffering from hearing loss): Don't stick any spear-like objects (aka Q-Tips) into your ear, as they can perforate your ear drum. Jaw movement naturally forces your ear canal to move and dislodge wax (though we don't suggest a taffy diet to do so). If you experience buildup, you can remove the wax with an over-the-counter softener like glycerine. Or put mineral oil in your ears, let it sits for 60 minutes, then gently flush with saline warmed to body temperature, or just let it fall out on a piece of cotton.
You can also see a doctor, who may try to remove it through a vacuum-like device, which is safe if done by an experienced practitioner. The vacuum technique is much safer than a method that used to be commonly used: flushing the ears out with water and high pressure. The water, if not the right temperature, can cause dizziness, and the high-pressure flooding can damage the drum.
Eat for Your Ears
It appears that two substancesfolate and phytochemicalsmight have some auditory advantages. Taking 800 micrograms of folate (which is also found in leafy green food) has been shown to slow the loss of high-frequency sounds. Deficiencies in folate and vitamin B12 might affect both the nervous and the vascular system associated with hearing. Hearing also benefits from phytochemicals, so the stronger the color of the fruit, the better. That means it contains high levels of these protective substances.
Use Headphones and Earplugs
In noisy situationsdoing yard work with power tools or maybe dinner with the extended familyit's worth using noise-cancellation headphones, which emit energy in a frequency that we can't hear. The sound waves they create have the same amplitude but opposite polarity as the original sound; they combine with the external wave and effectively cancel it out so there's no sound at all.
Models available in stores typically cancel lower-frequency noises, while the ear cups themselves protect you from high-frequency noises. (By the way, there's no evidence to suggest that these devices cause any damage of their own.) If you are exposed to loud noises that come and gosirens, trucks, trafficcover your ears. And bring earplugs to weddings and bar mitzvahs.
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