Contributed by Brande Plotnick, MS, MBA
June isn’t just the month for warm weather, ball games and grilling outdoors. It’s also the month to celebrate dads on Father’s Day and be extra mindful of health concerns for men. Men’s Health Month is observed each June to increase awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.
Men are husbands, brothers, sons, fathers, cousins, and uncles, too. So, men’s health – including hearing health – is really a family issue.
Living longer and better
Thanks to the marvels of science, many of us are living better, longer, healthier lives through modern medicine. Diseases that used to be deadly can now either be cured completely or managed for decades. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, men who were born in the 50s and 60s can expect to live a full two decades longer, on average, than men born in 1900.
Just because we can pop a pill these days for high cholesterol, hypertension or chronic heartburn among many other conditions, doesn’t mean you can ignore your health. In fact, men need to pay more attention to their health. Compared to women, they are more likely to smoke, drink, eat a poor diet, partake in risky behaviors, put off routine medical exams and ignore symptoms of poor health.
Men and hearing health
One important health issue often ignored by men is hearing loss. According to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 36 million Americans have hearing loss. And unfortunately, these 36 million Americans are dealing with much more than diminished hearing.
A study released by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) found that untreated hearing loss was closely associated with quality of life issues like sadness, depression, anxiety, insecurity and irritability. Not surprisingly, the study also indicated that hearing loss affects both the individuals with the loss, as well as their families.
Men are more likely to experience hearing loss compared to women.
Men are more likely to work in occupations that expose them to excessive noise such as construction or manufacturing. They also are more likely to partake in recreational activities that expose them to loud noise such as shooting firearms, motorcycle riding and using loud power tools to name a few.
Importance of hearing protection
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the only type of hearing loss that is preventable, and it is well documented that the use of hearing protection devices work. However, studies show the use of hearing protection devices during recreational activities is quite low for adults.
A well-known population-based study, The Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study, was designed to measure the prevalence of hearing loss in adults residing in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin over a span of 10 years. In addition to studying hearing loss, the use of hearing protection devices during recreational activities was also assessed. The study demonstrated low use of hearing protection devices for most recreational activities and the use of such devices actually tended to decrease with age.
Healthy Hearing asked our own readers about how much they value their hearing and how likely they are to use hearing protection, too. The results show that protecting hearing isn’t high on the priority list for most people when they are enjoying noisy pastimes. Here are some tips to make sure your hearing safety is top-of-mind:
- Keep your hearing protection devices near your power tools – if you see them by your tools, you’ll remember to put them on.
- Stash some foam earplugs in your car – they will always be there and will be easy to grab before concerts or spontaneous noisy activities.
- Keep a pair of earplugs or earmuffs hanging on the lawnmower – they will serve as a reminder each time you mow.
When you know how simple it is to prevent NIHL, you may be more motivated to “man up” and wear that hearing protection. Your ears and your family, friends, and colleagues will thank you later.
Healthy hearing = healthy living
In addition to protecting your ears from noise, you can ensure healthy hearing by leading a healthy lifestyle.
- Schedule an annual physical. If you don’t have a family doctor, ask friends for referrals. Annual physicals are the best way to prevent and detect medical problems.
- Have your hearing tested. A hearing test is easy, painless and it may identify undetected hearing loss from those rock concerts you attended back in the day.
- Have a vision test. Have your eyes tested even if you don’t think you have a problem. Good vision can help you communicate, too. Many people who have hearing challenges and those who wear hearing aids often rely on lipreading to fill in the gaps, especially in noisy environments where speech can be hard to understand.
- Exercise. A healthy heart is important for healthy hearing, so break a sweat regularly.
- Eat right. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables for a healthy heart and to consume vitamins and minerals that can boost and protect your sense of hearing.
- Quit smoking. The negative effects smoking has on the body are well-documented. If you need one more reason to kick the habit, know that smokers are more likely to experience hearing loss throughout their lifetime.
Happy Men’s Health Month!
June is the month to celebrate men by being mindful of good health. Take an honest look at your health and make adjustments. Getting your hearing on track is easy – all it takes is an appointment with a qualified hearing healthcare professional in our extensive directory. Make the call today for an improvement in your quality of life that will last long beyond Men’s Health Month.