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Don't let winter wipe out your hearing

With new seasons come changes in just about everything else: the clothes you wear, the foods you eat and what type of exercise you do. When fall turns to winter, we put away the light jackets in favor of winter coats, wool socks and scarves; start eating warming soups and holiday sweets; and hit the gym rather than the trails.

Winter activities can lead to hearing lossWinter and the holiday season is also a time to pay attention to protecting our hearing during activities that are most common in the winter. Here are some instances where you could suffer noise-induced hearing loss, as well as some tips on how to protect against it:

  • Using a snow blower can cause hearing loss because they can emit sounds as loud as 106 decibels, which are only safe for exposure up to three and 3/4 minutes at a time. If you must use a snow blower rather than a shovel to clear your sidewalk and driveway, make sure to only use it in short bursts of time and to wear proper, high-quality hearing protection to prevent against NIHL.
  • Another snow-geared machine - a snow mobile - can also be the cause of NIHL. While snowmobiling is a fun winter sport, it is also very loud.. Snowmobiles today can be as loud as 78 decibels. at a distance of 50 feet. However, in the past, just one snowmobile could get as loud as a very ear-damaging 103 decibels. However, in the past, snow blowers put out as much as 102 decibels! To get to these levels of sound, it would take 256 of today's snowmobiles operating in unison. Make sure to purchase the best hearing protection you can afford before trying snowmobiling.
  • The holidays are a popular time for concerts, operas and other musical gatherings. But music halls can also be incredibly noisy, so come prepared with ear plugs just in case.
  • Will you be watching that New Year's Day football game live from the stadium? Bring hearing protection!  Stadium noises can reach incredibly high decibels that can lead to NIHL.
  • Maybe your office is having its holiday party at one of the rowdiest pubs in the city. Make sure to step outside a few times to take a "hearing break" and let your ears rest a bit.

Signs of hearing damage

How do you know if your ears have had enough? Here are some signs that the noises you are listening to are just too loud:

  • Ear pain
  • Buzzing feeling in the ears
  • Tinnitus, which can involve ringing, whooshing or other noises
  • Hyper-sensitivity to noise
  • Difficulty hearing in noise
  • Loss of sensitivity to loud noises

Types of hearing protection

  • Pre-shaped ear plugs, which can be bought at a pharmacy or ordered online
  • Expanding foam ear plugs
  • Custom ear molds, which are made to fit your ear canals - they can last up to five years
  • Ear plugs on a frame
  • Capsule ear protection, including headphones and earmuffs that go over the ears, rather than inside them

If you experience a hearing loss or notice any continuous buzzing or ringing in your ears, a check-up with your hearing healthcare provider can help ensure you aren't suffering from noise-induced hearing loss or tinnitus. 

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