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Hearing health tips for the new year

Contributed by | Monday, January 12th, 2015

You know the saying: new year, new you. January 1 marks the annual time where we set resolutions to better our lives. There's a lot to choose from: breaking those bad habits, managing your finances, managing your weight, improving your diet, succeeding at your job. But how often do you include maintaining your hearing health in that annual makeover? It might seem like an insignificant resolution, but maintaining your hearing health is a simple one that can have a long-term impact on your life.

Taking care of your hearing only requires a few small changes to your lifestyle, but they’re changes most people don’t bother to make. As part of your New Year’s resolutions, make a list of all the improvements you can make to your hearing health this year. This list could include a wide range of items, from adding hearing-rich nutrients into your diet and regulating your exposure to noise levels to seeing your hearing health practitioner or cleaning your hearing aids on a regular basis. Here's how you can resolve to keep your ears in tip-top shape this year. 

Be proactive: get your hearing checked

hearing health tips
Be proactive with your hearing
health in 2015! If you suspect a
hearing loss, visit a hearing
healthcare professional!

Be aware of the potential signs of hearing loss. Do you have to strain to hear what everyone around you can hear easily? Are you often lost in the middle of a group conversation? Take our online hearing test if you think you could be exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss. You should also schedule an appointment with your hearing health practitioner for a more thorough check-up.

Even if you don’t currently notice any signs of hearing loss, scheduling a hearing check-up should be on everyone’s to-do list. The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine recommends you have your hearing checked at least once a year, much like your annual physical.

Ensure you're getting the most out of your devices

When was the last time you gave your hearing aids a tune-up? Hearing aid users typically visit their hearing health practitioner every six months for a check-up and professional cleaning. During your visit, tell your doctor about any fitting or technical issues with your hearing aid. Hearing aid check-ups are generally covered as long as the hearing aid is under warranty, and your insurance might also cover routine doctor visits.

Also ask your hearing health practitioner if there are any newer models that might be a better fit for you than your current hearing aid. Your practitioner can tell you about any other models that might solve whatever discomfort your current hearing aid is causing you, and educate you on any new advances in the field.

Adjust your diet and lifestyle habits

While the causes of many forms of hearing loss are unknown, research suggests a link between your diet and lifestyle habits, such as smoking, and your hearing health. Watching what you eat can have an impact on more than just your calorie count. A healthy dose of vitamins in your daily diet can help preserve your hearing long-term and ward off acquired hearing loss conditions.

Smoking also has an impact on your hearing abilities. Studies have shown the toxins in cigarettes can affect components of your middle ear, as well as the delicate hairs in the inner ear that transmit sound vibrations to the brain. The carcinogens can also damage the auditory processing nerves in your brain. Researchers suspect the damage results from a lack of oxygen that reaches these essential parts when you smoke.

Identify areas of improvement

Do you struggle to hear during certain times of the day, such as when you’re watching TV or in a movie theater? How well do you hear on the phone? If you have difficulties with certain electronics or in certain atmospheres, a wide range of assistive listening devices are available on the market to help fill in the gaps where your ears fail. Do a little research and see if there are any devices or accessories that could improve your hearing aid’s performance.

Monitor your decibels

Lastly, always make sure you’re not exposing yourself to unsafe noise levels, whether that be your work environment, your iPod volume or everyday tools like the lawn mower. The generally accepted safe noise level is 85 decibels or under, and since many common tools exceed that level, keeping a pair of ear plugs handy can greatly reduce your chances of hearing loss.

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that 15 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 suffer from noise-induced hearing loss, but that doesn’t necessarily mean noise exposure is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Protecting your ears is the best possible way to prevent hearing loss, and it’s generally pretty simple to do.

If maintaining a healthy lifestyle is one of your priorities this year, including your hearing is essential. While it’s not always your first thought, your hearing is very important, so don’t forget to include your ears on your list of 2015 New Year’s resolutions.

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