Sudden, loud noises can do more than startle you. Long term exposure to harmful sounds can permanently damage your hearing, going as far as causing ringing of the ears or even deafness.

Luckily, humans are aware that constant exposure to excessive noise isn’t good for our health and have recognized methods at protecting our hearing. Here are a few ways to protect your ears in situations that could cost you your hearing.

Keep the volume down. We’ve all experienced a shot of adrenaline when we hear our favorite song on the radio or we’re excited to catch the last half of the game after finishing other obligations. In the midst of our excitement, we crank the volume louder, as if we’ll miss something if we keep it at a conversational level. Unfortunately, we tend to get caught up in the moment and forget that our ears are not built to intercept high levels noise.

“Normally, these sounds are at safe levels that don’t damage our hearing. But sounds can be harmful when they are too loud, even for a brief time, or when they are both loud and long-lasting,” reports the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. “These sounds can damage sensitive structures in the inner ear and cause noise-induced hearing loss.”

Resist the urge to turn that volume dial to 10 and save your hearing. You’ll need it for future concerts, sporting events and life in general. While knowing what a good volume level to keep things at can be tricky, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says if you have to speak louder than normal, the background noise may be too loud.

“If you or others need to shout in order to be heard or cannot understand each other even at arm’s length away, the sound is too loud and may damage your hearing over time,” the CDC reports.

Wear earplugs or earmuffs. If you’re in an environment where you can’t control the volume, earplugs are one of the best methods for protecting your hearing. Before you think earplugs can ruin an experience, consider that musicians often wear earplugs when they’re performing. It makes sense to wear them at concerts, where instruments are amplified so the entire crowd can hear the music. Earplugs are good for a wide range of situations including operating loud machinery like lawnmowers, sleeping on public transit like planes and trains, or if you share a bed with someone who snores.

Earplugs can be bought in bulk for relatively cheap and they’re available at nearly every pharmacy store. Spend a couple of dollars and save your hearing.

Embrace silence. We live in a world of constant motion, checking emails and answering phone calls and text messages. It can be easy to get wrapped up in our busy lives and neglect the value of breaks. If you’re in a noisy environment, try to take regular breaks to give your ears a rest. Some moments of silence will give your ears and mind a rest from interpreting noises and words.

Consider taking a hearing test. We undergo annual physicals from doctors to make sure our bodies are working as they’re designed to (if you can’t remember the last time you had a physical, now is a good time to schedule one). But often times, our ears’ ability to hear are rarely factored into health check up. Follow the advice of Johns Hopkins Medicine: “A hearing test gives your audiologist a baseline that they can compare with future results to monitor the progression of hearing loss.” There’s nothing worse than surprises when it comes to your health. Getting a hearing test before you experience hearing loss may give your doctor time to establish a plan to save your ears.

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