The biggest risk to hearing is noise. Over time, listening to loud music through headphones and going to gigs and clubs can damage your hearing. Many new devices display the safe sound level and warn if you go above that. Keep an eye on the display – it is there for a reason.
Over time, being exposed to loud noise can damage the tiny hair cells in the inner ear. Often it is quite subtle to begin with. Tinnitus is one warning sign. If you go to a gig, you might experience a ringing in your ears. Your hearing should return to normal in a few days, but it is a sign you have put those hair cells under stress. If you keep doing it, they will die down and the hearing loss and tinnitus will be permanent.
You can wear ear plugs to gigs – you will still be able to enjoy the music. Ear plugs could help in other noisy places, such as larger cinemas and at firework events.
The other thing to think about is wax. Cotton buds can push wax further down, damaging the ear drum.
Info: Gemma Twitchen, senior audiology specialist at Action on Hearing Loss