Five Strategies to Protect and Preserve Hearing

Hearing connects us to our social and professional worlds. It allows us to enjoy the sounds of speech, nature, and music. Unfortunately, people all too often fail to appreciate this precious sense. They rarely feel motivated to protect and preserve their hearing. They take it for granted until it fades away and they experience the challenges of hearing loss. This is when communication struggles set in, and quality of life suffers. But it does not have to be that way. There is no time like the present for learning and for paying more attention to our ears and hearing.

Make some life changes for better hearing with the following strategies:  

No more denying hearing loss!  Accept reality.

Hearing loss is a chronic communication disorder that changes lives. Not understanding speech in noise turns listening and hearing into an isolating and tiring chore. How limiting is that!?

    Yet, hearing loss is often called an “invisible“ disability, which opens the door to denial of the obvious. It also encourages people to pretend that they hear and understand when they don’t. This is yet another form of denial called “bluffing.”  

    And so, let go of denial. It is toxic and totally unhelpful! At a time when it is crucial to accept reality, denial sets people up for wasting anywhere from 5 to 10 years before they get a proper diagnosis and information on how to move forward.  

    No more procrastinating! Get a professional diagnosis.

    As is true for any medical condition, getting the correct information and treatment depends on a correct diagnosis. Not all hearing loss is the same and it cannot always be attributed to “simply aging.” The only way to determine the type and degree of hearing loss is to have the ears professionally tested by an audiologist.

    Check with your health insurance plan if the costs are covered. Many – if not most – insurance plans require a written physician referral to cover hearing test costs. So, ask the primary physician to write an order for a comprehensive, diagnostic hearing test/evaluation. Don’t delay. Call today.

    Avoid noise-induced hearing loss!

    Repeated and prolonged exposures to excessively loud sound permanently damage the inner ear hearing cells and hearing nerves. Shouting over noise to be “heard” by someone 3 to 5 feet away means that the venue is way too loud.

    Nowadays, smartphone-specific sound meter apps help warn people of harmful noise levels. It is generally accepted that an average of 85 decibels (dBs) is the safe limit for human ears. That’s about as loud as standing 3 to 5 feet from a running gas-powered lawn mower or snow blower. Already quite loud!

    Also, invest in some sound-reducing earplugs. I never leave home without mine. Learn how to apply them correctly. Those who already have hearing loss should talk to an audiologist about proper protection for their case.

    Avoid ear oxygen starvation! Take care of chronic conditions

    Together with aging and ear-damaging sound levels, poorly managed chronic conditions, such as heart and lung diseases and diabetes are often cited as hearing loss risks. It comes down to healthy and predictable oxygen levels for the inner-ear hearing cells and hearing nerves. However, damaged lungs, hearts and blood vessels are unreliable oxygen providers.  And so, hearing preservation is yet another reason for taking medications correctly and for following doctor and specialist orders to the letter.

    Oxygen starvation of the hearing structures is further aggravated by sudden and often sharp drops in blood oxygen due to breathing interruptions related to Sleep Apnea. However, sleep apnea can be dealt with now. Talk to the doctor as soon as possible about a referral for sleep apnea testing and treatment.

    Quit smoking and vaping!

    Overall, this is sound health advice that also makes good financial sense.  Again, think oxygen! Putting aside other well-documented concerns, cigarette smoking and vaping share a common ingredient: Nicotine. Nicotine affects the cardiovascular system in many ways. Among others, it constricts blood vessels, which decreases blood flow and oxygen transport throughout the body as well as to the hearing structures.

    In the end,

    It is our choice. Healthy hearing is very much part of general health. And so, our mission – should we accept it – is to protect and preserve hearing by learning about it and by paying it consistent attention. It’s a matter of quality of life. And the time to act is NOW!