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Protecting Your Hearing this Fall and Winter

Whether your hearing is normal or you need hearing aids to hear effectively, it’s important to take precautionary measures while you’re outside enjoying the fall and winter seasons.

Hearing health professionals believe one of the major causes of hearing loss among Americans is noise induced. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Diseases (NIDCD) says as many as 26 million Americans have noise induced hearing loss.

What is a safe noise level? The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) sets acceptable decibel levels in the work place at 85 Db or less. Employers are required to issue hearing protection in environments that register noise levels louder than that.

Seasonal machinery and recreational toys can register unsafe noise levels, too. A typical leaf blower emits 85 Db and a snowmobile can be as loud as 78 Db. While you can always opt for rakes and snowshoes, but it might be more practical to protect your hearing when operating lawn mowers, leaf blowers, hunting rifles, snowmobiles and snow blowers.

There are several ways you can protect your hearing while you’re enjoying the great outdoors. Drug store earplugs are inexpensive and can reduce the level of noise by as much as 30 Db. They protect your ears against noise induced hearing loss as well as from the ringing and aching often caused by loud and consistent noise. Noise reducing ear muffs and headphones may be more comfortable to wear, although they are typically more expensive.

If you wear hearing aids, consider wearing noise reducing headphones or ear muffs when you know you’ll be in a noisy environment. Because your hearing aid amplifies sound, it’s important to protect your ears from further damage. Be careful, though. While headphones can keep your ears warm during the cold winter months, they may cause you to perspire when wearing them before the weather turns cool – and moisture is damaging to the delicate electronics in your hearing aid.

Another way to protect your hearing during the winter months is to wear a warm hat that covers your ears. Although scientists no longer believe we lose more heat through our head than we do any other unprotected part of our body, they do believe keeping your ears warm can prevent earaches. Wearing a warm winter hat is also advisable for hearing aid users. According to Energizer, exposure to heat, cold or moisture can shorten battery life.

Finally, make sure you eat right and exercise regularly this season. Hearing health professionals believe that, much like the rest of our bodies, hearing health is dependent upon good blood flow and proper nutrition. Even though we’re more likely to develop hearing loss as we age, we can slow the process down by taking care of ourselves.

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