Ears and Hearing
Hearing loss can be caused by many things, including ear infections, wax buildup, damage to the eardrum, side effects from drugs, long-term noise exposure, short-term noise exposure, aging. Some types of hearing loss can be temporary and some are permanent. It can be expensive to see an ear doctor (ENT =Ear, Nose and Throat, properly called Otolaryngologist), but ears are important and it can be worth it to solve a problem before it becomes more serious. Wax buildup can be caused by sticking Q-Tips into the ear. Wax buildup can be treated by applying hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide to clean out the wax. Overuse of these can dry out the ears. Ear wax is secreted from the skin of the ear canal. Oils such as mineral oil, olive oil or coconut oil can be used to soften earwax. An ear infection can be painful and may need to be treated by an ENT or a regular doctor. A doctor may prescribe ear drops or an oral anti-biotic. An ENT might reach in with an instrument and clean out an ear. Ruptured eardrums can heal on their own, but sometimes more serious damage can require surgery. A tumor can also cause hearing loss. Probably the most common cause of hearing loss is noise exposure.
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) can be caused by long-term exposure to loud noise or by very short term exposure. At 120 decibels damage can occur quickly. At 80-90db damage can occur with exposure over time. The specific damage which causes hearing loss is the death of hair cells in the cochlea in the inner ear. These cells cannot regrow in humans or other mammals (or at least that is the current official scientific fact). Birds and fish can regrow these hairs, which is leading to experiments for future treatments in humans (a long ways off). So, in general, noise-related hearing loss is permanent. When ears are ringing after being exposed to loud noise, the hairs in the cochlea are "stunned" and they can go back to normal within hours or days and the ringing goes away. But after a few days, if hearing does not return, the damage is most likely permanent. Younger people have stronger bodies and less long-term exposure, so they may feel like they can take more noise exposure, and while this may be true, they can also experience permanent damage very quickly at higher decibels and they may also subject themselves to a lot of loud noise which can cause damage over time.
Protecting the Ears
So obviously, if we want to keep our hearing, we need to reduce our noise exposure. Many people work in noisy enviroments, and should be protecting their ears with earplugs. Musicians and music-lovers may also need to protect their ears. You can play music at lower volumes or keep some distance from speakers, but you may need to use some protection. In a noisy work environment you just need earplugs to block out sound. Whereas a musician or someone listening to music would need or want to hear as much of the sound as possible, while still reducing the decibel level. There are now many types of earplugs available, including "musician's earplugs" which allow a full range of frequencies with an equal level of noise reduction. Some examples are Etymotic Research, Westone, Earasers. (see links below). When I had my ears tested, my audiologist told me that the Wichita Philharmonic uses earplugs (specifically Earasers). I was surprised that acoustic instruments could cause ear damage. Of couse a symphony orchestra is made up of many instruments and the players are sitting close together. She told me that the string section was having trouble due to sitting in front of the brass section. There are inexpensive decibel meters available (like $20 at Amazon) and there are phone apps which measure decibels.
While noise-induced hearing loss is most likely always permanent and I don't want to give anyone (or myself) false hope, I do investigate alternative treatments for health issues and I have come across an herbal tincture from the great herbalist Dr. Christopher which may be of interest. This product is called "Ear & Nerve Formula" (was previously known as "B & B"). It might help with some ear problems. It is not expensive and can be found online at many websites, including Amazon.com. (See links below, and check out reviews at amazon)
Wikipedia - Hearing - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hearing
Wikipedia - Hearing Loss - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hearing_loss
Wikipedia - Noise Induced Hearing Loss - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noise-induced_hearing_loss
Excellent article - The Musician's Guide to Hearing Protction - from a Doctor!
Hearing Subreddit - www.reddit.com/r/hearing
Best Earplugs for Musicians - cajonguide.com/best-earplugs-musicians/
Dr. Christopher's Ear & Nerve Formula - www.drchristopher.com/products/extractsoils/ear-nerve-extract/
Info on Deafness from Dr. Christopher - www.herballegacy.com/Deafness.html
Dr. Christopher's Ear & Nerve Formula at amazon.com - www.amazon.com/dp/B000XFAUNY/
Earasers - www.earasers.net
Etymotic Research - www.etymotic.com
Westone - www.westone.com
Ear Peace - www.earpeace.com
Good source for earplugs (Westone, Etymotic Research) (low prices, free shipping):
Slade's Home Page Slade's Health Page