- Kathleen Wallace
Top Tips To Protect Your Hearing
Traditionally, we think about hearing healthcare as being reactive; we wait for one to develop a hearing loss and, research shows, wait on average another 7-10 years before one pursues any form of intervention. But what if we shifted our thinking to being proactive? What if we prioritized our hearing and worked to preserve the functioning of our auditory (hearing) system? For those that are more familiar with the anatomy of the ear, it is amazing that we do not value and protect our hearing organs more. Did you know that the ear houses the three smallest bones in the human body AND that the main hearing organ, known as the cochlea, is so valuable that it is safely housed in the strongest bone in the human body (the temporal bone)?? Further, the actual cells that are responsible for the encoding of sound into a signal that the brain can understand are these delicate little hairs cells that vibrate in the presence of sound. Once damaged, however, those cells can't bounce back or regenerate, leading to hearing loss.
Here are some tips to do what you can to protect this incredible system and preserve your hearing ability as best you can:
Limit your volume. Part 1 of the formula of noise exposure is how loud the sound is. If you are listening to music on your phone, for example, keep it to about half volume or below.
Limit your length of exposure. Part 2 of the formula of noise exposure is how long you are exposed to a sound. The louder the sound, the shorter you can be around it safely. If you're listening to music on your phone, let's say no more than one hour.
Use hearing protection. There are a few different kinds of hearing protection and certainly some version of protection is better than nothing! Some examples of hearing protection include foam earplugs, earmuffs, custom ear plugs, custom sleep plugs (softer material), hunting plugs, or musician's plugs. For custom hearing protection, an audiologist will need to first perform earmold impressions by putting a putty in your ears and allowing it to harden, similar to what dentists and orthodontists use.
Move away from speakers or stages at shows. If you don't have control over the volume, such as at a concert, think about where you are standing to minimize the volume. Sound dissipates over distance so the farther away from a speaker or stage, the softer it will be.
Monitor your exposure with apps. If you want to get technical, there some free sound level meter apps that will let you take a reading of the volume of the environment you are in to let you know if it is safe or if you should be using hearing protection. Another way to leverage your phone's technology, particularly on iPhones, is to monitor your headphone level in the Health app on your phone. Apple has done a great job building this feature out and lets you know if you are listening too loudly or for too long.
To talk more about protecting your hearing, schedule an appointment!