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Men's Health Week: Preventing Hearing Loss a Top Priority

Hard to believe that another year has gone by and it’s already June – a month that seems to be all about enjoying warm weather, getting outdoors and men. Men? Well, we’ve got Father’s Day (don’t forget Sunday, June 21st) and National Men’s Health Week (June 15-21, 2009).

Men’s Health Week is observed annually and is a time to increase the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. So if you observed this men’s-only week last year, I am hopeful you’re still walking each day and using those free weights.

golfer
Your game may be par, but how is your health?

Some of you may have cut back on smoking – a very good thing. And some are still getting in a few sets of tennis or walking each day to keep all those bones and joints moving in the same general direction.

Okay, so Men’s Health Week doesn’t rank up there with October’s Pickle Month or the holiday season, but men’s health sure does. Look guys (and friends and spouses of guys), as we age we discover hair growing where it never did before and hair NOT growing where it used to.

But in all seriousness, Men’s Health Week is not just for men. As Congressman Bill Richardson stated (Congressional Record, H3905-H3906, May 24, 1994): “Recognizing and preventing men's health problems is not just a man's issue. Because of its impact on wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters, men's health is truly a family issue."

Right on. So men, women, children, friends, girlfriends – take note. Men’s health is a family issue. And coincidentally, hearing loss also happens to be a family issue.

Living Longer

Well, guys, hate to tell you this but age is creeping up on you. Gradually, things wear out. The eye-hand-coordination ain’t what it used to be, the eyes require reading glasses to peruse the paper and the bottle of ibuprofen seems to go empty much quicker than years of past.

Science sure is cool, and we’re all living better, longer, healthier and happier lives through modern medicine. In fact, according to WomensHealth.gov, the life expectancy between men and women has shrunk to 5.2 years, the narrowest since 1942.

Great. But, that does not mean men can start ignoring their health. In fact men actually need to pay more attention to their health. Compared to women men are more likely to smoke, drink, eat unhealthy, partake in risky behaviors, put off routine medical exams and ignore symptoms of poor health.

And thus, that’s why they created Men’s Health Week. To get the male population to at least take five minutes to think about its own health. And if they don’t perhaps that special female in their life will pass this information on to them.

Men and Healthy Hearing

One important health issue often ignored by men is hearing health. 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) in 1999 found that untreated hearing loss was associated with other quality of life issues. Issues - such as sadness, depression, anxiety, insecurity, and irritability - that have a negative impact on our overall well-being. Not surprisingly, the study also indicated that hearing loss affects both the individuals with the loss, as well as their families.

Also according to the NIDCD men are more likely to experience hearing loss than women throughout their lifetime.

Why are men less fortunate in the hearing arena? Well this is more than likely due to occupational and recreational behaviors of men. Think about it. Men are more likely to work in occupations that expose them to excessive noise (construction, factories, etc.). They also are more likely to partake in recreational activities that expose them to loud noise such as shooting sports, motorcycle riding, woodworking and use of various power tools to name a few.

Importance of Hearing Protection

hearing loss protection
Don't leave home without them

Noise-induced hearing loss is the only type of hearing loss that is preventable and it is well documented the use of hearing protection devices can protect persons partaking in noisy activities from hearing loss. 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.

The results of this study are disturbing considering protecting your hearing is actually very simple. Knowing the impact heaing loss can have on your quality of life, it seems a no brainer to want to protect the hearing you have.

So this Men’s Health Week, make a commitment to using hearing protection when engaged in noisy activities. Your ears are not as tough as you are – believe me – so be a man and protect them. You will be happy you do as the affects of aging sets into your ears, because that type of hearing loss is unfortunately not preventable.

Simple and Accessible

There are many different types of hearing protection devices. There are simple foam earplugs that are convenient, compact and disposable. But there are also more heavy duty ear muffs that are an excellent investment for activities such as mowing the lawn. In addition to these one-size fits all there are now custom hearing protection which are excellent for musicians and those who enjoy going to concerts as they maintain excellent sound quality but provide safe listenign levels at the same time.

The key with any hearing protection is keeping it simple and accessible. The following steps may help make hearing protection devices part of your routine when engaging in noisy activities:

  • Keep your hearing protection devices near your power tools – if you see them by your tools you will be reminded to put them on
  • Stash a baggie of foam earplugs in your car – they will always be there and will be easy to grab before concerts or other noisy activities.
  • Keep a pair hanging on the lawnmower – they will serve as a reminder each time you go to mow.

And don’t forget listening to loud music can be just as damaging as a chain saw. Consider purchasing noise-canceling headphones when listening to a personal music device as these prevent you from turning your music up too loud. For concert goers consider purchasing custom hearing protection molds - they allow you to listen to music at safe listening levels while maintaining excellent sound quality.

Healthy Living = Healthy Hearing

healthy hearing
Healthy you = happy you

In addition to protecting your hearing there are ways to ensure healthy hearing and one is leading a healthy lifestyle. The following are recommendations all men should consider to live a healthy life.

Schedule an annual physical. If you don’t have a family doctor, ask friends for referrals. That’s the best way to find a professional who suits your needs. Annual physicals are the best way to prevent and detect medical problems from occurring.

Have your hearing tested. It’s easy, painless and it may identify undetected hearing loss from all those rock concerts you attended back in the olden days (even if the olden days were 10 years ago). Like vision, hearing loss is often gradual and part of the aging process. It should be part of the routine medical exam at least every year or every other year.

Hearing can also be damaged by long-term exposure to loud noise, illness, exposure to loud noise, cardiovascular issues and even firecrackers. To learn more about the causes of hearing loss and if you are at risk visit: Causes of Hearing Loss.

A hearing evaluation will reveal the sounds you’ve been missing – like “the rain on the roof, caught up in a summer shower.” Visit a hearing care professional today.

Have a vision test. Vision loss is often gradual so you don’t notice it right away. You just need longer arms to read the morning newspaper, right? Have your eyes tested even if you don’t think you have a problem. Eyes are often the first equipment to start rusting out.

Exercise. Feel good about you by shedding some pounds and at the same time become heart healthy. A healthy heart actually does influence healthy hearing.

Eat Healthy. Not always easy to do when you live a busy life, but try to make it a priority. A healthy diet leads to a healthy body in many ways. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables for vitamins and minerals.Eat plenty of protein to keep those muscles lean and mean. Studies have shown eating a healthy diet can lead to better brain processing and will translate into better hearing and listening attention.

Kick the habit. It is well documented the negative effects smoking and nicotine has on a body. So do your body good and stop smoking. Persons who smoke are more likely to experience hearing loss through out a lifetime – one more reason to quit (as if you need more).

It is Men's Health Week – the perfect time to shift into “adult gear” and make some appointments regardless of your age. Consider it a guy-bravery thing. It’ll make you feel better as you make those appointments.

So in honor of all the men out there, Happy Men’s Health Week. Cheers to a healthy life and a healthy you (and of course healthy hearing!).

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