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Earth Day 2009: Green Hearing Health

Earth Day is upon us (April 22, 2009), and, once again, we can all use a reminder to look at our lives to find ways to protect our planet. And that includes hearing aid wearers, potential hearing aid wearers and persons considered about protecting their hearing. What can you do to Go Green this year?

Well, you might not think much about it but you know what, there’s a lot you can do. Read on. It isn’t hard, it won’t change your lifestyle and you’ll make the world a better place.

Earth Day 2009
Love our Earth with green hearing health

Consider the following tips on Going Green all year round.

1. Buy mercury-free hearing aid batteries.

Mercury is a heavy metal and is present in trace amounts in some batteries. And although hearing aid batteries contain a very small amount of mercury, each time you toss your hearing aid batteries into the trash, eventually – maybe years from now – that small amount of mercury is going to work its way into our water supply.

The trend in hearing aid batteries is moving toward greener pastures. Within the last few years, leading hearing aid battery manufactures such as Energizer and Rayovac, have began manufacturing and distributing mercury-free hearing aid batteries in the United States.

So when it is time to replace your hearing aid battery supply, consider going green.

2. Buy hearing aid batteries in simple packaging.

You buy a package of some hearing aid batteries and there’s a cardboard backing or box, shrink wrap, then a plastic shield, then safety, tamper-proof seals and on and on. By the time you actually get to the batteries you have a pile of trash littering the kitchen table.

When you buy hearing aid batteries – or any consumer product – look for the least amount of waste in packaging. Does that bottle of aspirin really need a separate cardboard box to protect it? It may be a little thing but little things mean a lot to our landfills when everyone does them.

3. DON’T buy cheap disposable hearing aids.

A recent study on cheap hearing aids by Michigan State University (MSU) researchers found cheap hearing aids, those less than $100, are not worth your pennies when it comes down to consumer satisfaction.

And with the color green on our mind, these disposable cheap hearing aids are wasteful. Due to the poor sound quality and low consumer satisfaction, these cheap hearing aids end up in the land-fill (not even worth putting in the drawer).

Need more convincing? MSU researchers also found hearing aids priced under $100 are actually a safety hazard for your hearing.

Bottom line? Purchase hearing aids that you wear for years. Better hearing and a better life are a worthy investment for you and the Earth.

Your hearing will thank you and know you are doing your part for a better, greener future for our kids and grandkids.

4. Donate your old behind-the-ear hearing aids.

You may have outgrown yours or are ready for an upgrade, but to someone else your hearing aids are valuable pieces of equipment you’re about to toss.

Did you know behind-the-ear hearing aids can be refurbished, cleaned up and reprogrammed for someone else? All it takes is that person visiting a hearing care professional to ensure the behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids will work for their hearing loss and if so, then purchasing new custom earmolds to attach to the hearing aids.

So if it is time for you to purchase new hearing aids and your current ones are still working (and aren’t from the Stone Age) consider donating them so someone less fortunate with hearing loss may benefit from them. You know the saying “one person’s junk is another’s treasure”.

Siemens Motion hearing aids
Rechargable Siemens' Motion BTEs

Contact the Lions Club in your community for more information on donating used BTE hearing aids.

5. Consider a rechargeable hearing aid.

They may cost a few extra bucks but (1) you never have to watch that last battery slide under the fridge just out of reach and (2) you aren’t dumping toxins into our landfills every other week.

There are a number of hearing aid manufactures that have developed rechargeable hearing aids. Not only are they convenient, they’re green, too. Discuss this with your hearing care professional to see if one of them is right for you.

6. Buy quality, custom hearing protection.

You can go to the local pharmacy and pick up a pack of foam ear plugs that can be rolled up and used once (or twice if you don’t mind a little ear wax the next time). However after one or two uses, they are done for and end up in the garbage. Wasteful and not to mention, they are not the most comfortable thing to put inside your ear canal.

For persons who frequently wear protection (which should be everyone) might we suggest custom hearing protection – something that will last, is more comfortable and provides a higher degree of protection and a better listening experience?

Custom ear protection is made after a hearing care professional makes impressions of your ears with a silicone material. The impressions are then sent to an earmold manufacturer to have the custom ear protection made.

The custom molds may be made with special filters depending upon the type of noise you are protecting yourself from (i.e. music, machinery, etc). For shooting sports enthusiasts you may want to consider investing in hear-through ear muffs that engage protection only when a shot occurs – allowing safety and protection.

Custom ear protection is available through your hearing care professional – discuss your protection needs with them so they may choose the right product for you.

7. Take care of your hearing aids.

If you take care of those expensive little ear aids you won’t have to replace them as often. Now, that’s not only good for the green in your wallet, it’s good for a greener planet.

Wipe your hearing aids clean each day using a soft cloth. And keep them away from dogs (especially large dogs who like to eat things), kids, the tropical fish tank and swimming pool. For more information on taking care of your hearing aids consider reading: Hearing Aid Care Made Simple: Top 10 Tips to Care for Your Ear Gear.

Last but not least...

Take your ears and hearing aids in for a regular tune up.

Visit your hearing care professional at least once a year so adjustments can be made to improve your listening experience if your hearing changes and for your hearing aids to have a thorough cleaning by a pro.

You may not think about your hearing aids, batteries, packaging and all of that other stuff as important to a greener, healthier planet. But if you’re like most of us, you think about a healthier you and a healthier Earth will lead to a healthier you.

So, this Earth Day, take a moment to look through your life to find ways to use less and recycle more.

The future of our home depends on it so do your part – even if it’s a little part.

Cheers to Green Healthy Hearing!

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