You only have two ears, and although there are tons of devices to help amplify sound if you start to lose your hearing, the better strategy is to protect it in the first place. Just as you protect your eyes from exposure to harsh chemicals or bright light that may damage them, you should also protect your hearing from factors that can cause hearing loss. Here are some of the best techniques for protection.

1. Minimize your exposure to extremely noisy environments, like rock concerts, construction sites, or buildings in which loud machinery is being operated. If you are in these places, wear earplugs to protect your ears from noise-induced hearing loss. Even infrequent exposure to very loud noises can cause hearing loss, so don’t risk it.

2. Keep the volume down when you are listening to audio on headphones. In particular, never turn up the headphone volume to drown out background noise, as you may be tempted to on an airplane or in another noisy environment. If you need to listen in a loud environment, purchase noise-canceling headphones to allow you to keep the volume low and still be able to hear.

3. Vaccinate yourself against diseases that can cause hearing loss, which include mumps, measles, pertussis (whooping cough) and rubella. These viral diseases are easy to prevent, and you’ll not only be protecting your hearing, but your overall health as well.

4. Don’t stick foreign objects into your ears. This includes cotton swabs, which can actually push ear wax further into your ear and even perforate your ear drum if you push too hard. Clean your outer ears with a damp washcloth and visit a hearing specialist if you suspect you have ear wax built up in your ear canal.

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