World Hearing Day is a time to think about the state of hearing health in the world and at home; at the level of policy and at the level of the individual. The World Health Organization suggests that there is more that policymakers should be doing to make screening and rehabilitation a bigger part of health care initiatives, while there is more we need to learn and practice as individuals to make sure our hearing ability stands the test of time.
Too many people are living with unaddressed hearing loss and diseases of the ear, and hearing loss is costly at the level of a country’s GDP. The WHO says that by investing in cost-effective interventions for those at risk or suffering from hearing loss, societies can see a net financial gain when hearing loss is mitigated. National health plans should include “person-centered ear and hearing care” as an important part of universal health coverage. These and other actions can prevent and address hearing loss throughout the course of a person’s life.
We need to realize that we can take some measure of control over our risk for hearing loss. Protecting against loud sound, good ear hygiene, and getting immunizations for diseases that can result in hearing loss are important practices we should all observe. Those with noticeable hearing loss should seek treatment in order to prevent undesirable changes to our lifestyles and overall well-being.
Regular Hearing Tests
The Better Hearing Institute is a not-for-profit organization that recommends getting a hearing test once every decade until age 50, and once every three years after that. Regular hearing tests allow us to keep track of our hearing health. Many of us have some hearing loss without knowing it, and by recognizing that we do, we can take measures to prevent further loss and avoid the eventual need for hearing aids. Of course, if it is recommended that we should get hearing aids, that is the best way to treat our hearing loss and keep ourselves strong and independent.
Check Our Environments
Would you be surprised to learn that it only takes 85 dBA (about the noise level from a lawnmower) to cause hearing loss? It’s true! After about 8 hours of exposure to 85 dBA, permanent hearing loss will set in. And for every additional 3 dBA of volume, the safe time of exposure is cut in half. By the time we get to 100 dBA (about the volume of a high school dance), it takes less than a couple minutes to cause permanent hearing loss.
If you’re unsure about whether an environment is safe or not, you can download an SPL meter app for your smartphone that will measure the SPL (sound pressure level) of the environment. If you find yourself in an environment averaging 85 dBA or higher, you should wear hearing protection.
It’s good practice to carry a set of earplugs with us everywhere we go. It might sound like a hassle at first, but a set of disposable earplugs can be purchased for about $1.00 and will fit in the tiny pocket in a pair of jeans.
Reusable earplugs offer considerably better sound quality than disposables and usually cost about $15–30. Those who frequently encounter noisy environments or attend a lot of concerts might appreciate a good set of reusables.
If you are a musician, music enthusiast, hunter, gun enthusiast, motorcyclist, or otherwise encounter loud sounds on a regular basis, it’s worth considering a set of custom-molded earplugs. For these, an audiologist will need to take an impression of your ear canal to manufacture a set of earplugs that fits you perfectly. They’ll form a tight seal in your ear canal, and an implanted attenuator of a specified strength will reduce the sound perfectly evenly across the frequency spectrum. The quality of sound is about the same as if you were not wearing earplugs, only quieter. A wide range of attenuation levels is available, so they can be much more effective than reusable or disposable one-size-fits-all options.
Celebrate World Hearing Day with a Hearing Test!
Whether you’re due or overdue for a hearing test, make an appointment today! Getting a hearing test is an important part of keeping track of your general health. If you have some hearing loss, we can talk about ways to prevent further hearing loss going forward, and if you find your hearing loss is causing problems in your day to day, we can talk about hearing aids. Hearing aids are the most effective treatment for hearing loss, and are the best way to maintain your healthy lifestyle going forward!