Hearing Loss and Cognitive DeclineJune 6, 2017
New Hearing Aids? Here Is What You Can Do With The Old OnesJuly 8, 2017
Hearing loss affects more people than diabetes or cancer, yet it remains one of the most untreated health issues facing Americans. We know that aging is a significant contributing factor for hearing loss, but it is not the only factor. Just as with other chronic conditions, there are steps people can take to protect their hearing and prevention should start decades before the first sign of hearing issues.
The inner ear structures are among the most delicate in the entire human body. There are small blood vessels, the fragile tympanic membrane of the ear drum, and our three tiniest bones – each measuring only millimeters. Slightly less known, are the minuscule inner and outer hair cells responsible for amplifying and transforming sound. Damage to any of the inner ear structures can diminish hearing health and may even lead to permanent hearing loss.
Since the personal cost of hearing loss is so high, it’s important to learn how to maintain good hearing health throughout our lives. Here are five simple ways to give your ears the love they deserve:
- Diet and Exercise – A healthy diet and commitment to exercise promotes total body health and your ears will benefit. Remember that the small blood vessels in your ears may be more susceptible to health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes, so maintaining good health is valuable to maintaining good hearing.
- Lose the Earbuds – The World Health Organization estimates that over ONE BILLION teenagers and young adults are at risk for hearing loss due to personal audio devices and exposure to loud noise. Earbuds sit right next to the ear drum, so consider switching to over-the-ear headphones, but still pay attention to noise levels and the length of exposure. If you just can’t ditch your buds, keep the volume low and limit your listening time to no more than 60 minutes each day.
- Know Your Noise Exposure – Noise levels are measured in decibels. A quiet library registers around 30 decibels and decibels above 120 are considered dangerous. A jet plane taking off, rock concerts and a jack hammer all register above 120 decibels and we know to take care around these. More challenging is the fact that we don’t know the noise levels of some of our day-to-day activities. The NIOSH Occupational Hearing Loss Surveillance Project defined high occupational noise exposure as anything greater than 85 decibels. A noisy office can reach 85 decibels and the subway is 90 decibels. Discuss your personal exposure level concerns with your hearing healthcare provider.
- Use Hearing Protection – Hearing protection like ear plugs, noise-cancelling headphones and ear muffs is readily available and some can be easily customized. Hearing protection devices come with a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) which indicates the maximum decibel reduction level for each device, but that would be under the best possible circumstances with a customized product. A good rule of thumb is to assume the decibel level will be reduced by half of the NRR rating. As an example, a rating of 26 on the NRR scale will probably reduce the noise by approximately 13 decibels.
- Give Your Ears a Break – If you are in a noisy environment, plan for five-minute noise breaks every hour. Muscles may hurt when we work out or our eyes may feel strained when we read for a while, but our ears don’t often give us obvious cues. The lack of cues does not mean that our ears are not feeling fatigue, so go to a quiet place and give your ears some rest several times a day. If you hear buzzing or ringing after a particularly loud event, it can take several hours for your ears to fully recover.
We can help you establish life-long healthy hearing habits. Set up an appointment with us for a full hearing evaluation and a customized hearing protection plan.