Since 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) has marked out the 3rd of March as the World Hearing Day. World Hearing Day is a campaign organised by the Office of Prevention of Blindness and Deafness of the World Health Organization (WHO) to share information, foster actions, and promote policies that aim at preventing hearing loss and improving hearing care across the globe. This year’s World Hearing Day is themed: “Hearing care for ALL! Screen. Rehabilitate. Communicate.” According to WHO, the campaign “…presents a global call for action to address hearing loss and ear diseases across the life course.”
In a manner that shows strategic planning, this year’s campaign identifies two main spectra of the population as its target audience: policy makers and the public, seeing that these groups have unique but indispensable roles to play in achieving better hearing care.
Although ear diseases and hearing loss (especially noise-related hearing loss) are global problems, the Nigerian situation is a dire one. There are a myriad of reasons for this. To start with, our policy makers have not shown willingness in proposing and implementing policies that address hearing loss and ear diseases, a situation WHO describes as unacceptable. In addition, the majority of the Nigerian population does not really have impeccable healthy habits, let alone hearing-care habits. Although, one might be tempted to ask that in the midst of existential crises such as kidnappings, tribal clashes and the likes, who bothers about ear and hearing care? That would be a question for a philosophy class. Anyway, the aim of this article is not to lament the Nigerian situation, neither is it to blame policy-makers. It is rather to discuss and, hopefully, inculcate proactive practical ways to take better care of our ears. First off:
Turn that Volume Down!
According to the World Health Organization, 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults worldwide are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss from unsafe use of audio devices. Alarming, right? However, when you consider the trend of things around us, you will realise that though this is alarming news, it is not surprising news. Tech companies are inventing and re-inventing audio devices like earpieces, earbuds, headphones, speakers etc. every day, with new upgrades promising not only better enjoyment of music but also worse hearing conditions. Earbuds are especially dangerous because they fit directly next to the eardrums. If you’re a great music fan, then, over-the-ear headphones are better alternatives. You can also protect your ears by following the 60/60 rule: the suggestion is to listen with headphones at no more than 60% volume for no more than 60 minutes a day.
Are You In A Terribly Noisy Place? Walk Away or Use Earplugs!
As a rule of the thumb, noises that force you to shout before the next person can hear you clearly are injurious to the ears if exposure persists over a long time. Chainsaws, clubs, concerts and typical Naija parties are all implicated here. If the source of the noise can’t be avoided, especially for those working closely with machines that make such noises, it is advisable to use earplugs. In addition, after you have exposed yourself to such high decibels, it is ideal to walk away from the source of the noise and rest your ears for about five to ten minutes. This gives your ears ample time to recover from the bashing.
Stop “Cleaning” Your Ears with Cotton Buds
This might come as a surprise because in this part of the world, the use of cotton buds (cotton swabs) to clean earwax f is something of a hallmark of cleanliness. Well, this act is ill advised, especially if you do it frequently. A little wax in the ear is not only normal but also essential for preventing dust, bacteria, and other particles from entering the ear canal. Now if the use of cotton swabs in the ears is being discouraged, imagine what would be said about the use of improvised cleaning objects such as feathers, pen covers, matchsticks or fingernails. All these put you at risk of damaging your eardrums. Fun fact: your eardrum is located in the mid-ear region, not buried deeply in the skull like the organs of the inner ear, so it’s more vulnerable than you think.
Always Keep Your Ears Dry
You should always keep your ears dry with a clean towel after a bath or a swim. Excess moisture in the ear canal provides bacteria and fungi with an optimum environment for growth. These pathogens can then attack the ear, causing various infections that are dangerous to your hearing ability. A common example of such infection is Otitis Externa, also known as Swimmer’s ear, which is characterised by pain, itching, redness of ears and hearing loss.
Hearing is a gift. However, like most gifts of nature, we often take our ears and the ability to hear for granted — a mind-set that predisposes us to abuse. This year’s World Hearing Day might have come and gone, but it is in our best interests that the message of this campaign becomes part of our lifestyles. If the policy makers are not making provisions for better hearing care, is it not wise that we hold on to what we have and protect our hearing jealously? Or, are we waiting to realize the value of our hearing when it is gone? Remember to turn down that volume…