Hearing allows us to communicate with our loved ones, listen to music, be alerted to danger, and more. It is essential for both practical reasons and for living happily. Experiencing hearing loss can be challenging in a wide variety of ways. Fortunately, there are ways you can look after yourself and prevent hearing loss from worsening. Although hearing loss is common with age (half of people experience hearing loss by the time they reach 75), people of all ages can develop habits that are harmful to their ears. We have compiled a list of six habits that you can establish that can help prevent hearing loss.
1. Listening to your audiologist
The most significant thing you can do to improve your hearing is closely follow the instructions given to you by your hearing specialist. While this point may seem obvious, it can actually be the most challenging to abide by. It is easy to forget directions from your audiologist because they can seem complicated. Make sure you receive written directions or write down directions yourself. It is important to remember that if your doctor instructs you to wear hearing aids and you do not, this can have a detrimental impact on your hearing and your overall health. Hearing loss that goes untreated can harm both your emotional health and your cognitive health. For instance, hearing loss has been identified as something that can contribute to the development of dementia. If you cannot hear properly, there are fewer neurological signals being sent to and received by your brain, which can be detrimental to your brain’s health. Brushing off or ignoring instructions from your doctor regarding your hearing can impact your health in numerous ways.
2. Making consistent visits to the audiologist
Even though healthy hearing is essential to good overall health, people commonly forget to regularly get their hearing tested. Periodic check-ups with a hearing specialist are just as critical as eye exams, physicals, and visits to the dentist. While primary care physicians may conduct hearing tests, they are typically not as comprehensive as the tests done by audiologists. Because hearing can change a lot in a year, it is crucial to stay on top of appointments to a hearing specialist. The recommended frequency of hearing tests depends on your age and your risk factors for hearing loss. It is recommended that adults below the age of sixty should have their hearing tested every three to five years. Individuals over sixty, or who have risk factors for hearing loss should consider yearly check-ups. If you already have hearing aids, it is likely you will be advised to visit a hearing specialist annually to check if you have experienced more hearing loss, or if your hearing aids need to be re-tuned or refitted. Your audiologist can tell you how often you should come in to get your hearing checked.
3. Familiarizing yourself with the signs of hearing loss
It is essential to be able to identify the signs of hearing loss. Hearing loss can be tricky to notice because it usually occurs gradually. There are some questions you can ask yourself regularly to try and figure out if you are experiencing hearing loss: Do the people I live with often complain I am listening to the TV or radio too loudly? Do I struggle to speak to people on the phone? Do I often need to ask others to repeat themselves in conversation so I can understand them? Do I hear a ringing in my ears? Through asking yourself these questions on a regular basis, you can stay on top of potential hearing problems you may be experiencing.
4. Taking care of your hearing aids
It is important to properly look after your hearing aids. This includes cleaning them regularly, as moisture and earwax tend to build up. You can learn how to maintain your hearing aids from your audiologist, or from the manufacturer who makes them. In order to ensure your hearing aids last, you should also avoid wearing them in extreme temperatures, such as in snow or at the beach, and remember to take them out when you are getting in water. Finally, you should make sure your hearing aids are charged. It can be useful to establish a regular time to charge your hearing aids, because it is possible you will not notice if they have died.
5. Protecting your ears from loud noises
We are all exposed to loud noises on a daily basis, from construction, to blenders, to loud music. Luckily, we are able to avoid some of this exposure and protect our ears. It is always important to wear earplugs or earmuffs in instances where you will be around especially loud noises, such as going to a concert or operating loud machinery. Tools including table saws, sanders, and drills can be harmful to your hearing, particularly if you are using them or near someone who is on a frequent basis. Be mindful of how loudly you listen to music, especially when you are listening through headphones.
6. Maintaining your overall health
Something that is often overlooked is that taking care of your overall health is taking care of your hearing. While hearing loss is often associated with age, there are other physical factors that can increase or reduce your risk of hearing loss. Reputable studies have found that individuals who exercise regularly experience lower levels of hearing loss than those who do not. Furthermore, having social interaction in your life is another way to look after your overall health and your hearing. Avoiding social interaction is a common response to hearing loss. While socializing can be challenging if you have trouble hearing, social isolation can negatively impact your brain’s ability to process information. In this way, cognitive exercise is just as important for your hearing as physical exercise. If you are not able to have in-person social interaction, talking to family and friends on the phone is beneficial as well. In these ways, looking after your physical, mental, and emotional health all ultimately contributes to caring for your hearing.