During my days as an Air Force and airline pilot, I was very concerned about hearing loss. Jet engines may be ‘The Sound of Freedom’, but they are also veryloud. Back in those days I had my hearing tested at least once a year. I wore ear plugs every time I flew and the Flight Docs drilled the importance of protecting our hearing into us.
Now that I’m out of the flying game, it seems like there is a lot less emphasis on preventing hearing loss. Yet the dangers of hearing loss are all around us.
That’s why I was excited to attend a class recently given by audiologist Dan Hewson. Dan has had significant hearing loss since he was a young child. You could tell during his presentation that he has a real passion for helping people with hearing loss. Dan’s business is Ascent Audiology and Hearing. He has three locations in Arizona – Glendale, Surprise, and Goodyear(shameless plug – right near our assisted living homes!).
I thought I would share some of the lessons Dan The Audiologist gave us.
What Hearing Loss Can Mean
It seems obvious that nobody wants to lose their hearing. Hearing loss means:
- Not enjoying your favorite music
- Feeling like you’re annoying others when you ask them to repeat stuff
- Turning up the volume on TV’s, phones and radios
- Having to sit closer to everyone to hear better
- Just a general decline in quality of life
Those are the inconvenient parts of hearing loss. But there are other more insidious effects of hearing loss:
- Recent studies have linked hearing loss to a greater chance of dementia in older adults
- Feelings of negativity and anger born of frustration
- Fatigue, tension, stress and depression
- Avoidance or withdrawal from social situations
- Social rejection and loneliness
- Reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety
- Ability to learn new tasks
- Reduced job performance and earning power
- Diminished psychological and overall health
Seniors and the elderly are especially prone to many of these effects due to the other ailments they may have. All of these are good reasons to take care of your hearing!
Take Care of Your Ears to Prevent Hearing Loss
Dan gave us some great tips and techniques to take care of your hearing. Then he went in to taking care of your hearing aids if you do have some loss. The first X tips we have are for your hearing. The last X tips are for your hearing aids, should you have some.
- Stay Away from Loud Noises– This seems obvious. Yet so many people ignore it until it’s too late. It’s not just jet engines that can be a problem. Hearing loss can happen from all sorts of loud noises. The loss can come suddenly or over a period of time. It depends on how loud, how long and how much rest in between each exposure. Generally, the louder the noise, the shorter time needed for hearing loss. Some examples of places to be careful around:
- Rock concerts
- Construction noises
- Machines at your job
- Sporting events
- Stereo systems
- Loud restaurants and bars
- Movie theaters
- Monster truck pulls and other automotive events
- Fitness classes
Earbuds can also be particularly damaging to your ears. Their proximity to your eardrum elevates the noise. If you do wear earphones, consider the over-the-ear variety rather than earbuds.
- Give Your Ears Time to Rest– If you do expose your ears to loud noises, give them time to rest afterwards. If you’re at a concert or loud restaurant, step outside for a few minutes every so often. You’ll notice an immediate relief when you step out in a quieter area.
- Eat Well – Unhealthy diets have been linked to hearing loss. According to Audiology.org:
“ In the International Journal of Audiology (2013, Vol 52, p. 369-376), Spankovich and Le Prell report “a significant relationship between dietary nutrient intake and susceptibility to acquired hearing loss is emerging.” Indeed, the authors reflect on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES, 1999-2002), which included some 21,000 participants.”
Diabetics have it particularly rough. According to American Diabetes Associationhearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes as it is in the general population. Even those with prediabetes are 30% more likely to have hearing loss than people with normal blood sugar.
- Exercise– Just like diet, you would not think exercise would have much of a link to hearing loss other than its overall healthy effects. Exercise, especially cardio exercise, stimulates blood flow to your ears. It also helps prevent neurotransmitter loss.
Exercise also help reduce the chances of contracting other diseases such as diabetes and heart disease which contribute to hearing loss.
Just make sure you don’t crank the tunes during your exercise session!
- Have Your Ears Checked Regularly– Sure you probably think an audiologist like Dan is going to suggest regular checkups. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea! As a pilot the FAA and Air Force required me to have my ears checked at least annually. People who work in loud environments also check their ears regularly.
Just because you work in an office, or are retired, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check your hearing. As with so many other health conditions, early detection of hearing loss is a big key to minimizing it. Hearing loss can happen gradually. You may not notice a change until it’s too late if not checked regularly.
Medicare should cover at least one hearing test a year. Many other insurance plans should cover it as well. Take advantage of it!
- Be Careful What You Put in Your Ears– You’ve probably heard about the dangers of putting Q-tips in your ears. What you’ve heard is probably true. What you may not have heard is other stuff may be bad too.
There’s a reason your ears create wax. The wax protects your ears from dust and other pollutants. So don’t be overzealous about removing it. If you do want to remove the wax, don’t use water. Shooting water into the ear canal can damage the eardrum. Dan the Audiologist suggests using air. He can perform wax removals for low prices.
Here’s what the Mayo clinic thinks about putting stuff in your ears:
Hydrogen Peroxide is good to put in the ears when they are hurting, such as swimmer’s ear. It’s not so great for removing ear wax. It actually thickens the wax and makes it harder to remove.
One homeopathic remedy for removing ear wax is Olive oil. Try putting 5 drops in each ear to loosen the wax. Then use cotton balls to wipe around the outside of the ear to remove it when it starts coming out.
Hearing Aid Tips to Help Hearing Loss
- Talk to an Audiologist about Your Hearing Aid, not a Dispenser– Audiologists do not receive money from different hearing aid companies. Hearing Aid dispensers do. If you have your ears checked and your regular doctor recommends a hearing aid, have them refer you to an audiologist. An audiologist will thoroughly examine you and recommend the best hearing aid solution for your condition.
- Be Careful Where you Buy Your Hearing Aid – You may be tempted to purchase your hearing aid at one of the big chain stores like Wal-Mart or Costco. Be careful about the low prices. The hearing aids are mostly proprietary to those stores. Nobody but those stores are allowed to service the hearing aid. That means that your servicing costs may be higher. It also means your audiologist can’t help you out with the hearing aid.
- Have your Hearing Aid Serviced Every 3 to 4 Months– If hearing aids are not serviced regularly, they may not function properly. That means you may have as many problems as if you didn’t have the hearing aid in the first place.
- If Your Hearing Aid Isn’t Work, It May Need Re-Programming– Some of the signs of bad programming include not hearing well when there is a lot of background noise. Or being able to hear but not understand. Don’t throw your hearing aid away before you have it checked!
- Take Proper Care of the Battery – Different batteries last different lengths of time. You can save the battery charge by opening the battery door at night which will turn off the hearing aid.
Your hearing is one of your most important senses. Yet we don’t check it nearly as much as we do with other parts of our bodies. Yet hearing loss can lead to all sorts of problems. Dan the audiologist gave us these facts:
- 64% of people have their eyes tested regularly
- 52% of people have their teeth checked regularly
- Only 17% of people have their hearing tested regularly
It’s time to raise that percentage!