At this point, we all know to wear a helmet to protect our heads when riding a bike. It’s common sense, just like wearing eye protection when working with tools or the proper outer garments to guard against frigid temperatures. For some reason, though, the idea of protecting our ears does not seem like a priority.
Even with the World Health Organization stating that 360 million people worldwide are affected by hearing loss and 1.1 billion people between the ages of 12-35 are projected to suffer from hearing loss in the coming decades, adoption of preventative hearing practices is not taking hold.
What Are Good Hearing Loss Prevention Practices?
If you’re already suffering from hearing loss, it’s probably too late to repair the damage. Luckily, there are plenty of steps you can take to prevent hearing loss from taking hold in the first place.
- Be aware of the noise levels in your daily life. A decibel level of 85 is not damaging for short exposures but can be damaging with long-term exposure. Most people don’t realize that a noisy office can reach 85 decibels. Eight hours in that office may negatively impact your hearing health.
- Take frequent hearing breaks. If we read a book and our eyes tire, we put the book down for a bit. Do the same for your ears. Our ears are not as good at letting us know when they’re fatigued, so take no-noise breaks often during your day.
- Use hearing protection like earplugs or earmuffs if you know you will be exposed to high noise levels or long-term noise. Typical noises in the danger range are motorcycles, concerts, chainsaws, and shouted conversations.
- Limit your use of earbuds. This one will be tough for many people, but turn the music down and get those buds out of your ears. Earbuds rest near the eardrum and are damaging when used at high volumes.
Damage From Unexpected Places
These tips are ridiculously easy to apply for most people, but what if your livelihood depends on being in a noisy environment? Most of us will immediately think of a construction or industrial zone when we think of high-noise jobs. A recent study evaluated the noise impact on another group of employees exposed to constant loud noises: professional musicians.
Decibels are decibels. It doesn’t matter if it’s a jackhammer or an instrument. The study found that musicians were impacted, not only in full orchestra sessions but, when practicing alone at home, as well. As expected, percussionists were found to be the most affected, along with flutists. Cellists and musicians in the bass section were the least affected due to the softer sounds produced by their instruments.
The solution for musicians? It’s the same as the solution for all of us: use ear protection. Part of the issue with ear protection may be that it dulls our hearing and that can feel uncomfortable. When we use eye protection it doesn’t impact our vision. Regardless of the reasons for a lack of adoption, hearing protection should be used often and encouraged by all hearing healthcare providers. Schedule an appointment with us to discuss how to protect your hearing and to set up a hearing care plan.
With Halloween now behind us and Thanksgiving on the horizon, there is no doubt that the holiday season is here. While the fully stocked store aisles and endless TV and radio ads may focus on the things we “need” to get for ourselves and others, it’s the people we spend time with that really make it special. And chances are, at least some of those family and friends will have hearing loss.
Hearing loss is all around us
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), almost 38 million Americans have at least some trouble hearing. Those are just people 18 and over, too. The number is even higher when accounting for children with hearing loss. With statistics like that, if you don’t have hearing loss, you most likely know someone who does.
With plenty of holiday gatherings on the calendar in the weeks to come, now is a great time to plan and prepare with hearing loss in mind.
Holiday hearing tips
Whether it’s talking over turkey, catching up at a festive cocktail party, debating with Dad or gabbing over gifts, tips like these can help you connect and communicate even when family and friends have hearing loss:
Tune in and turn up: Whether you’re the host or a guest, stay tuned in to those you know (or think) have hearing loss. Do they seem to be having trouble joining in the conversation? Are they staying on the outskirts of the activity? Try engaging them in conversation on their own or bring them back into a group conversation to keep them feeling connected and part of the festivities. Everyone appreciates feeling engaged, cared for and part of the action, regardless of hearing ability.
Create the best setting: Considering candlelight and spirited holiday music for your get together? Keep in mind that it could make communicating more difficult for guests with hearing loss. Instead, opt for a brighter setting with minimal background noise to make it easier for those with hearing impairment to see lip movement, facial expressions and gestures and hear more of the conversation around them. This can also help those with hearing loss avoid extra fatigue from trying to listen through extra background noise.
Practice effective communication: This is crucial no matter who or where you are! Strategies like these can help everyone avoid confusion and frustration and help everyone feel heard and connected:
- Face whoever you’re speaking with – In any situation, make sure you are face to face when speaking. This allows anyone (especially someone with hearing loss) to take in the full picture of eye contact, body language and lip movement along with the sound they hear.
- Speak clearly – Avoid rushing, mumbling, talking too loudly or too softly. For someone with hearing loss, these can make speech more difficult to understand and lead to frustration.
- Rephrase instead of repeat – It can be easy to just repeat exactly what you’ve said when the person you’re speaking with hasn’t heard or understood. Instead, rephrase what you’ve said. In some cases, different words may be easier to hear and understand. A re-phrased statement may also offer deeper context for the listener helping them grasp what’s being said.
Tips like these can help keep everyone connected this holiday season, even with hearing loss. If you’d like to learn more about hearing loss and help family and friends who have hearing loss, contact our office. Scheduling a hearing evaluation may be the best gift you could give them or yourself this year!