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Random acts of hearing kindness

Contributed by | Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

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We love hearing health! So, since February is traditionally known as the month for expressing sentiments of love and admiration, we thought you might like some suggestions on how to give gifts and be an advocate for hearing health at the same time.

Here’s the bonus: these random acts of hearing kindness can actually be good for you. According to a study led by researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, being kind isn’t only nice, it also makes us happier and healthier. What more could you ask for?

Foam earplugs in different colors
Inexpensive foam earplugs
are easy to share with others.

Random acts of hearing kindness for total strangers

Ask restaurants to turn down music

If the music in your favorite restaurant is making it too difficult to hear the conversation at the table, it may be time to talk to management. Because soft furnishings like carpets and tablecloths have been replaced by more modern designs and open-concept kitchens, the acoustics in our favorite eateries are changing, too. Noise has a tendency to bounce off of hard surfaces. And when the music is loud, patrons tend to increase the volume of their conversations, making for a noisy, distracting environment for all involved.

Here’s the bottom line: If the volume is causing you to strain to hear, it’s probably causing everyone else to strain, too. Begin by asking your server (politely) if it’s possible to turn down the music. He may tell you “no," but on the off chance the staff honor your request, you’ve just improved the dining experience (and hearing health) for all involved. If not, you know where NOT to eat the next time you want to dine out.

Carry foam earplugs with you to noisy events

One of the most common forms of hearing loss is caused by exposure to noise that is too loud for our ears. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) says noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) affects people of all ages. This type of hearing loss is permanent and can be caused from a one-time sound such as an explosion, or from long-term exposure to sounds that are too loud.

Fortunately, NIHL is also the most preventable type of hearing loss. You can help preserve your hearing, along with those around you, by wearing — and sharing — foam earplugs whenever you know your hearing will be exposed to loud noises. Going to the championship ballgame at the indoor arena? Planning to attend the concert when your favorite rock group comes to town? Purchase a container of inexpensive foam earplugs (available at most drugstores for less than $10) and share them with people in your section. Even if they choose not to wear them, you’ve given them some food for thought. Maybe they’ll be more protective of their hearing in the future all because you were thoughtful enough to offer up the suggestion.

Look at people when you talk to them

One of the easiest, most effective ways you can improve communication between yourself and other people is by looking at them directly when you speak. And, if the person you happen to be speaking to is hard of hearing, they’ll appreciate being able to see your face clearly enough to read your lips.  

Making eye contact shows respect, interest, appreciation, and enhances understanding. Even if you’ll never see them again — store clerks, bank tellers, the postman — make eye contact and speak clearly. Not only will it improve communication, it will also leave a positive, lasting impression.

Turn off the radio when you’re in the car with other people

The radio is great company when you’re alone, but it can be intrusive when you’re trying to converse with someone in the back seat. If you’re met with some protest, at least turn down the volume so you can carry on a conversation without having to yell.

Random acts of hearing kindness for family members

The January 2016 issue of Real Simple magazine contains a great article about making your house quieter, which includes several random acts of hearing kindness you can perform for family members.

  • Fix annoying household sounds, such as dripping faucets and buzzing light bulbs. Even repetitive sounds can cause stress – which might surprise you to know can be detrimental to your hearing. Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm found a direct link between stress and tinnitus and hearing loss among participants in a survey.
  • Mask night sounds with a fan or white-noise machine. If you can’t eliminate the noise, at least try to mask it, especially in the bedroom. Getting a good night’s sleep is also important for healthy hearing. Poor sleep can lead to mental exhaustion and, since the brain plays such a big role in how well we hear, it can affect your hearing, too.
  • Replace old appliances with quieter models. Blenders, garbage disposals, dishwashers, air conditioners — all of the modern conveniences that simplify our lives and keep us comfortable also make noise. According to hearing healthcare professionals, exposing hearing to sound levels louder than 80 decibels (dB) on a regular basis can cause hearing loss. Most of the household appliances we just listed measure anywhere from 50 to 90 dB, so it’s a good idea to invest in quieter models whenever possible.
  • Decorate with soft, noise-absorbing materials like rugs and drapes. As we mentioned earlier, sound bounces off hard surfaces, so while hardwood floors are all the rage, they also might elevate the volume of sound in the room.
  • Keep a stash of earplugs handy next to noisy lawn equipment and power tools. Out of sight, out of mind as they say. Why not keep ear protection where you can see it, especially when you’re operating equipment such as lawn mowers (65 to 95 dB), snow blowers (105 dB), leafblowers (110 dB) and chain saws (125 dB). And, when the impressionable younger members of your family see you exercising good hearing protection habits, they are more likely to do so as well. Helping those you love develop good habits when it comes to protecting their hearing may just be the best gift you can give them this Valentine’s Day.

Of course, the ultimate act of hearing kindness is helping a loved one find a hearing care professional or making that much-needed appointment for yourself!

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