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Healthy Hearing's Annual New Ear's Resolutions - 2010

Well, here we are again.

Another year has come and gone. A lot’s happened in the past 12 months, some good, some not so much. But you can be sure of one thing: a lot of people experienced hearing loss in the past year. That’s a stone cold fact.

Hearing loss occurs naturally – organically – as part of the aging process. The ol’ ears just don’t process sound as well as they did back in the day. Nature’s little way of saying, “HEY, YOU’RE A YEAR OLDER” – only each year, nature has to say it a little louder (or is it softer?).

Now’s the time we all make our New Year’s resolutions. To shed that extra poundage. To finally kick the tobacco habit or stop eating fast food. All positive, beneficial promises to ourselves. And sometimes, we actually stick to those promises we make to ourselves. (Sometimes we don’t.)

So, to get you on your way to a healthier, happier, better-sounding 2010, here are this year’s New Ear’s Resolutions from your friends at Healthy Hearing. 

Healthy Hearing 2010

I won’t listen to my MP3 player at excessively loud levels.

One of the most common causes of hearing loss is exposure to loud noise. You probably already knew that. But you probably don’t know how much exposure is too much exposure.

Well, the pros tell us that damage caused by exposure to loud noise depends on both the level of the sound and the exposure time to the sound. According to noise experts if you were to listen to music for 24 hours anything for up to 75 dBA would be safe. However as hearing expert Dr. Brian Fligor explained to Healthy Hearing in a previous report on noise-induced hearing loss that: "… we've learned in our studies is that listening levels are determined by background noise. The louder the background noise, the higher the listening level of MP3 users trying to block out that background noise. So, 75 dB isn't high enough for most people in background noise."

So what is safe? And how to you determine if you are listening at a safe level?

Dr. Fligor, Director of Diagnostic Audiology at Children's Hospital in Boston, offered Healthy Hearing these suggestions to ensure you are protecting yourself when listening to your favorite tunes: •

  • Limit the time you listen at high volumes (you know when it is too high) and give your ears a break if you are choosing to turn it up high. “If you give your ears the chance, hearing returns to normal levels. The key is to take time out and go unplugged."
  • Purchase headphones that block out background noise. Studies have shown MP3 listening levels are determined by background noise. By blocking out competing background noise you naturally will listen to your music at lower volumes. 2.

I will learn what a dB is.

A dB is a measure of the loudness of sound. The higher the number of dBs, the louder the sound.

Some samples:

  • a whisper 30dBs
  • birds tweeting 40 dBs
  • normal conversation 60 dBs
  • the dishwasher on rinse 60 dBs
  • a car whizzing by 77 dBs
  • city sidewalk at noon 80 dBs
  • garbage disposal 88dBs
  • lawn mower 96 dBs
  • your kid’s garage band 110 dBs (threshold of pain in more ways than one)
  • jet aircraft @ 50 feet 130 dBs (ear busting noise)

The experts recommend that you limit exposure to loud noises – the common noises around your home or in the workplace. According to National Institute of Occupational Safety and Healthy (NIOSH) report sounds less than or equal to 80 dB are safe for a 24 hour period. Anything above that threshold has the potential to cause damage to the hearing mechanism and cause permanent hearing loss, depending upon exact level and exposure time.

Learn how loud the sounds around you are. These aren’t unusual sounds. They’re sounds you’re exposed to daily. When you whip up a smoothie, your ears are exposed to 88 dBs of sound. Running the lawn mower? In the 90 dBs for sure. And when you add up all of this exposure to noise over a lifetime, you don’t hear as well as long.

I will wear hearing protection.

Damage to the ear can be caused by exposure to loud noise (as just discussed). Loud noise can include anything from a chainsaw, snow blower to rocking out at a concert. If you know you’re going to be exposed to potential hearing damage the choice is very simple, wear protective ear-gear.

If you mow lawns for a living, spend the bucks for some quality over the ear hearing protection.If you attend concerts regularly, consider purchasing custom fit earplugs filtered specifically for listening to music. The specialized filters maintain the quality of the music while lowering the exposure level for you.

A lot of hearing loss can be eliminated simply by wearing hearing protection. A simple and often inexpensive way of ensuring your hearing stays stellar longer in life.

A pair of foam ear plugs will set you back a few bucks at the drugstore. Custom earplugs and over the ear hearing protection will set you back a few dollars. But can you put a price on your ability to hear? You can’t. It’s priceless.

I will eat more foods rich in folates.

Folates Prevent Hearing Loss
Eat your way to better hearing

Hearing loss is often associated with the production of naturally occurring molecules in the body called free radicals. Free radicals are produced when the body is stressed or injured.

Nick your finger making supper and the body is stressed, at least a little. At that point, free radicals are produced. Same with damage to the hearing mechanism. Listen to a rock concert for a couple of hours and you leave the venue with ringing in the ears – a symptom of over-exposure to loud noise.

Foods rich in anti-oxidants – especially folates, also called folic acid – combat free radicals, preventing ear damage. In fact, medics in war zones now carry meds high in anti-oxidants. These meds are injected when a casualty is exposed to a loud, explosive noise and, if given soon enough, studies show that these anti-oxidants prevent hearing loss.

Foods high in folates include: liver, asparagus, spinach, bananas, OJ and other “good-for-you” foods.

Eat better, hear better. And longer. Yet another reason to consider a better diet in the coming year.

I will stop smoking

We can keep this one short since we all know the negative effects smoking has on the body, which includes your hearing. It works like this. Smoking tobacco restricts blood flow and each time you light up, you deny the cochlea and millions of haircells we use to hear, the oxygen-rich blood they require. With each cigarette, you damage your hearing and over time the damage is cumulative.

The research and data is there to support the smoking and hearing loss connection. To learn more visit: Smoking and Hearing Loss: One More Reason to Kick the Habit.

I will protect the hearing of others.

If your ‘tween or teen is standing next to you and you can hear the music pumping through those ear buds, it’s way too loud.

Limit the amount of sound your child or grandchild or best friend is exposed to. It might seem like nagging, but you really are doing a good deed by warning loved ones to turn down the sound. So be a nag. Someone will thank you for your concern someday.

For more information on protecting our youth from noise-induced hearing loss, visit Protecting Kids from Hearing Loss: A Matter of Top Priority.

I will stop using cotton swabs to clean my ears.

Ear hygiene and cotton swabs go hand-in-hand. All our lives, we’ve been told to clean out our ears. Bad advice.

Ear wax is a naturally-occurring, beneficial substance that’s produced by glands that line the ear canal.

Ear wax catches dust, dirt and debris to prevent it from accumulating within the ear canal and protect the middle ear from bacteria. It’s supposed to be there. If you do have a problem with too much ear wax, purchase an over-the-counter wax softener. Clean out as necessary using warm water.

If the problem continues, see a hearing professional, such as an audiologist, who can perform safe earwax removal.

The use of a cotton swab actually pushes the earwax and debris deeper into the ear canal and puts you at risk for damaging your eardrum. Accidents happen and rupturing your eardrum with a cotton swab is one accident you do not want to happen. If you choose to still use a cotton swab, limit it to the outer edge of the earcanal where the wax eventually ends up.

I will enjoy the sound of silence.

There was a time when the world was a much quieter place. No loud machinery. No planes or subways, no cell phones, MP3 players – not even 8-track tape players.

Give your ears a break by enjoying the sound of silence. Ears can heal some damage if given the chance. So, pick up a good book and enjoy the sound of silence as you read. Your ears will thank you in the years ahead.

I will have my hearing tested.

Yes, it’s a hard resolution to keep but a hearing test is an important part of keeping what hearing you have in tact. Make an appointment to visit an audiologist or hearing aid practitioner to undergo a hearing test – no matter what your age.

A hearing test is painless, it doesn’t take a lot of time out of your day and it provides invaluable information to you and the hearing professional on the extent of the hearing loss you’ve already experienced.

Think this is something for seniors only? Wrong. Hearing professionals are seeing patients in their 20s and 30s who have damaged their hearing through long-term exposure to noise.

Make a promise to yourself and keep it. And if not for you, do it for your family and loved ones. See a hearing professional and have your hearing tested. Hearing loss is often gradual – so gradual that you don’t notice it until you have an extensive hearing loss. And the sooner you treat a hearing loss, the more success you will have with treatment.

See a professional, get tested and hear better longer.

And drumroll please for our final resolution….

I will not accept hearing loss.

If you can’t read the newspaper, you get glasses. If you can’t hear the person across the table, you get hearing aids.

Hearing loss is one of the most treatable conditions in the medical and health spheres. You don’t have to accept it simply because it’s happening to you. Take a pro-active stance.

Here are some things you can do starting today: 

  • Learn more about your hearing. Healthy Hearing is loaded with good information. (Hey, you already made a good start by reading this!) Learn more about how you hear and the causes of hearing loss. 
  • Learn more about today’s hearing aids. They have evolved into sleek, sassy devices. In fact many have won design awards! Hearing aids no convey “old” they convey that life matters to you and you aren’t going to let a hearing loss stop you.
  • Cover your ears. You may not always know when you’re going to be exposed to a loud bang. (Think 4th of July hi-jinks.) When you know a loud noise is coming and you forgot your earplugs at home, cover your ears with your hands until the noise abates. You may be tough, but your ears are actual quite delicate.
  • Stop smoking. Tobacco smoke contains ototoxic chemicals. (Like you needed another reason to kick butt.) 
  • Listen. You hear 24/7 but how much do you listen. We accept loud noise as a part of modern life. But if you take a moment to actually listen, you’ll better understand the importance of hearing in your life. Without it, life just isn’t as much fun. And why wait until you no longer have it.

Yes, it’s resolution time again. So, along with the usual lose weight, quit smoking, drive slower and all the other resolutions you make, promise yourself to look at your hearing with an increased awareness of the dangers to and the benefits of your ability to hear.

Heighten your awareness of hearing. Don’t take what you got for granted because you’re going to miss it when it’s gone.

So, here’s to a happy, healthier new year. Make those New Ear’s Resolutions today and enjoy healthy hearing longer.

Better hearing starts with promises you make to yourself.

Make those promises. And keep them.

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