October is National Audiology Awareness and National Protect Your Hearing Month
We all know how important our hearing is to our everyday lives, but many people are not fully aware of the many ways in which their hearing can be affected. Hearing loss can be caused by trauma, excess noise, disease, certain medications or injuries. Once your hearing is damaged it usually cannot be restored, so protecting your hearing is very important.
Approximately 15 percent of people in the United States suffer from noise-induced hearing loss due to work environments or leisure environments. There are things you can do to protect your hearing. Try to avoid exposure to loud noises when possible and wear personal hearing protection such as earplugs if you are in a noisy environment like a concert since researchers have found that our ears need an average of 16 hours to recover from one loud night out. It is also important to cover your ears not only when at a loud concert but also when using everyday equipment like lawnmowers and power tools.
Are You at Risk for Hearing Loss?
According to the World Health Organization, 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults around the world are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss from their constant use of audio devices. To protect your ears while listening to music through headphones or earbuds, it is suggested to follow the 60/60 rule: listen with headphones at no more than 60 percent volume for no more than 60 minutes per day. If possible, choose over-the-ear headphones rather than earbuds, as they go directly next to the eardrum.
Exercise is very good for your ears as it gets your blood pumping to all parts of the body, including your ears, but remember while working out that head injuries involving trauma to the bones protecting the middle and inner ears can cause hearing loss. Always wear a helmet while playing contact sports or cycling and always wear a seatbelt in the car. Other ways to reduce your risk of hearing loss are to be careful when cleaning your ears by not poking too far into your ear canal with Q-tips. We recommend not to stick anything in your ear to clean it. Reduce the risk of ear infections by seeking medical help for any upper respiratory tract infection, avoid swimming in dirty water and dry your ears fully after bathing, since excess moisture can allow bacteria to enter and infect the ear canal.
Since hearing loss develops gradually, it is recommended to have annual hearing consultations with an ear, nose and throat specialists so that you are more likely to recognize signs of hearing loss and act as soon as you can. At ENT Specialists, our physicians offer comprehensive medical evaluations of hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing of the ears).
Traveling with Hearing Aids
If you wear hearing aids, taking care of them every day and while traveling is extremely important. Make sure to keep them away from heat and moisture, if batteries are dead replacing them immediately, clean them as instructed, do not use any hair care products while wearing them, and turn them off when they are not in use.
If you wear hearing aids and are traveling, there are things you can do to protect them. Pack enough batteries and chargers to last the duration of your trip, and use a dehumidifier if you are going to a humid climate. If you’re traveling by car, you can add GPS navigation instructions to the hearing aid’s connectivity options- meaning you can stream directions to the hearing aid so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road. If you’re traveling by train it can be very noisy, so you may want to look into background noise-reducing hearing aids. There are also apps for train departure information including any changes and stops to reduce the stress of not hearing or understanding announcements made on the train. If traveling through an airport, there are apps that can be used for getting updates. And remember that hearing aid users are not required to remove their aids or cochlear implants while passing through security. They may, however, be given a pat-down if the hearing device sets of the metal detector or imaging scanner. Do not place your hearing device on the X-ray belt as this could damage the microphones.
Protecting your hearing is essential to living a fulfilling lifestyle. Using these tips in your everyday life can help to extend the health of your ears.