Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
Whether you’re planning a much needed break from your workday routine this summer or are retired and simply looking forward to warmer weather, please keep this in mind: it’s never a good idea to take a vacation from hearing health.
Summertime temperatures and holiday get-togethers are definitely things to look forward to so you’ll want to be hearing your best. Here are our tips for protecting your precious hearing this summer as well as getting the most from your hearing aids if you have them.
As we remember those who have died serving in America’s armed forces, it’s also prudent to mention that hearing loss due to noise exposure is the most common service-related disability. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 933,000 Veterans are receiving disability compensation for hearing loss (2014) and nearly 1.3 million received compensation for tinnitus.
The National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates as many as one in three Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have hearing loss resulting from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). The good news? It’s preventable. Before you pack up the family to attend a Memorial Day parade and pay your respects to those who serve, be sure to make a quick trip to the local drugstore for some foam ear plugs. Wearing them in noisy situations can reduce the clamor, bang and screeches of sirens, band instruments and exploding fireworks that may cause permanent damage to unprotected ears.
Many public pools also open on Memorial Day. Ask any swimmer and they can tell you developing a case of swimmer’s ear is painful. What’s more, it can lead to temporary hearing loss. To reduce the risk of developing swimmer’s ear, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend:
- Keep your ears as dry as possible by using a bathing cap, ear plugs or custom-fit earmolds when swimming.
- Dry ears thoroughly after swimming or showering.
- Refrain from putting objects in your ear such as cotton-tip swabs or fingers.
- Leave earwax alone. As gross as it may seem, it actually acts as protection against infection. If you think excess wax is affecting your ability to hear, consult your hearing healthcare professional.
- If water gets in your ears, use the tips to get it out.
For hearing aid users
If you wear hearing aids, be mindful of increased humidity and moisture caused by the temperatures and water activities this time of year. As your hearing healthcare professional has probably told you, moisture is no friend to your hearing devices. Not only can it damage microphones and receivers, it can also lead to corrosion of battery contact points. Keep your hearing aids as dry as possible, and if you haven’t done so already, invest in a hearing aid dehumidifier. These devices use a desiccant to draw out moisture overnight which may have accumulated due to excess perspiration, humidity or condensation.
If you’re taking your dad to a sporting event to celebrate Father’s Day, consider taking along some hearing protection, too. A September 2014 online article on STACK.com listed seven of the loudest football stadiums in America, and the results are astounding. Husky Stadium, home of the Washington Huskies, holds the record for the loudest stadium with noise levels reaching 133.6 decibeld (dB). Unprotected exposure to an environment with noise registering more than 85 dB for an extended period of time can permanently damage your hearing. And while you’re probably taking in a major league baseball game instead of football this time of year, it’s still a good idea to wear ear plugs. Even the inexpensive foam ear plugs from the drugstore can reduce decibel levels by as much as 33 dB.
While we’re talking about dads and hearing — how well is yours hearing these days? After age 65, one out of three Americans will have some sort of hearing loss. If your father seems to be asking you to repeat yourself often or often answers your questions inappropriately, it may be time to gently suggest he have a hearing evaluation. Untreated hearing loss can lead to a variety of other medical conditions, including increased risk for dementia and balance problems. Here are some tips for having this sensitive conversation.
Watching the sky light up with bursts of color in celebration of our great nation’s birthday is something many Americans look forward to each summer. In fact, it’s so much fun it may not occur to you to protect your ears from the damaging noise these events emit. Noise-induced hearing loss is permanent, but it’s also preventable. Use this holiday as a teaching moment for your family.
- Let them see you wearing ear plugs when noise levels are excessive and carry spares to share with others.
- Talk about the importance of protecting your hearing.
- Be intentional about selecting where your family sits at these events, mindful of public address speakers, emergency vehicle sirens on the parade route, or the proximity of the fireworks blast zone to your viewing section.
- Schedule annual hearing evaluations for the entire family so you can all establish a good rapport with a local hearing healthcare professional.
For hearing aid users
More than likely, your family already appreciates your decision to purchase hearing aids. Wearing them enhances communication and keeps you engaged in daily life activities. If you aren’t in the habit of wearing your devices regularly, it’s time to take them out of storage and wear them with pride. Hearing is a brain activity. The more sound your inner ear is able to process and send along the auditory nerve, the better your brain is to make sense of the information. And when your family sees you taking care of yourself, they’re more likely to follow your example when they develop hearing problems of their own.
Picnics, pool parties, parades, backyard BBQs — how does your family typically celebrate Labor Day? All of the tips we’ve given you for the other summer holidays certainly apply for this end-of-the-summer celebration, too. By this time, you’re likely proficient at protecting your family’s hearing against noise damage, making sure ears are kept dry after a dip in the local watering hole and modeling good hearing health habits. What’s our final tip?
Enjoy your hearing
Our sense of hearing is uniquely constructed, providing us with the opportunity to sing along to our favorite tunes, enjoy summertime serenades by birds and crickets, and hear the delighted squeals of children. If you’re not hearing your best, it’s time to find out why. Our directory can help locate a hearing care clinic in your community. Schedule a hearing evaluation and, if recommended, purchase hearing devices sooner rather than later. With today’s technology, there’s no reason to miss out — whether you’re celebrating a warm weather holiday with family and friends or simply sitting on your front porch enjoying the all the sweet sounds of summer.