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Most of us think about protecting our skin from the sun with sunscreen, and our feet from the gravel with shoes, however, how often do we consider the importance of protecting our hearing from noise with hearing protection? Hearing loss that is caused by excess exposure to noise – termed Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is a medical concern that can affect anyone at any age. It is estimated that in the United States alone, NIHL currently affects about 10 million people under the age of 70 and about 40 million people total (https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/news/2017/us-adults-aged-20-69-years-show-signs-noise-induced-hearing-loss). With our current habits as a society, this number is only set to increase – especially for the younger generations. The World Health Organization estimates that internationally, about 1.1 billion young people are at risk of developing NIHL due to their noisy recreational activities (http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss).
No matter what your age, it is never too early to too late to start implementing healthy habits to protect your hearing. Whether or not you currently live with hearing loss, making these simple actions part of your daily habit will help preserve the hearing you have.
- Be cognizant of your personal listening device usage. When we consider personal listening devices, we most often imagine teenagers blasting their music, however, older adults use personal listening devices more than they may consider. Many adults currently stream most of their phone conversations through ear buds for convenience or when driving. This noise streaming directly into your eardrums can take its toll. To help you maintain healthy usage of your personal listening device, follow the 60/60 rule. The 60/60 rule means listening to your devices at 60% of the max volume, for no more than 60 minutes at a time before taking a break.
- Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Just as a healthy diet and plenty of exercise benefits most aspects of your life, these healthy habits also help protect your hearing. Diets high in potassium, folic acids, magnesium, and zinc have all been found to improve hearing health. Fresh leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and some lean meats are high in these minerals and should be included in your diet. Exercise also protects our hearing because it increases blood flow to the vessels in our ears that helps to keep them operating properly.
- Consider hearing protection. Most of us enjoy some type of loud recreational activity, whether that be cruising in the convertible or on the motorcycle or attending sporting events or music venues. You don’t need to stop doing the things you love, just consider doing them with the hearing protection in tow. Custom hearing protection is the most comfortable and most effective option, because the molds are made to fit perfectly within your ear. If this is not an option for you, disposable earplugs can also be very effective. Disposable earplugs are quite inexpensive, readily available in most drug stores and are typically sold in large quantities.
- Take frequent hearing hiatuses. Most of us expose ourselves to excess noise more often than we are aware. Everyday activities such as mowing the lawn or blow-drying our hair have the capability to damage our hearing. Noise Induced Hearing Loss is most often cumulative, meaning it occurs due to excess exposure over a prolonged period of time. Any break you can give your ears will be beneficial. Plan a few days per month or a few minutes per day where you pick up a book rather than flip on the TV, or take your dog walking through the peaceful woods rather than the busy neighborhood.
- Decrease alcohol and tobacco intake. Frequent alcohol and tobacco intake have both been linked to an increased risk for hearing loss. If you cannot quit altogether, taking some steps to start minimizing your drinking and/or smoking can be a great way to protect your hearing health. Second-hand smoke is also a known risk-factor for hearing loss in children and teenagers, so quitting will also help to benefit those you love.
How South Shore Hearing Center Can Help
If you’re interested in learning more healthy habits to protect your hearing or are worried about your hearing or that of someone you love, reach out to our friendly team today. We look forward to working with you in both protecting the hearing you have, and helping to treat the hearing that has been lost.