Hearing loss is the third most common chronic medical condition that people experience today. Impairment reduces a person’s ability to absorb and process sound which produces a range of effects that can disrupt daily life. There are various factors that can cause hearing loss including existing medical conditions, genetic history, aging, and environmental exposure to loud noise.
We are exposed to varying levels of noise every day and there are useful ways you can reduce the risk of your hearing health. Six healthy habits to protect your hearing includes the following:
Wear Hearing Protection
Protective gear includes earplugs, earmuffs, and headphones which serve as a protective barrier for the ears. They reduce the amount and impact of sound you absorb from the environment you are in. Wearing hearing protection, especially while navigating spaces with excess background noise, is a great way to mitigate excess noise exposure. This is particularly important if you work in a loud setting, travel regularly, attend concerts, and participate in activities that produce lots of noise.
Reduce Noise Exposure
Another useful healthy habit to protect hearing is to reduce your exposure to loud noise. Sound is measured in units known as decibels (dB) and noise above 85dB is considered potentially harmful for hearing health. This is the equivalent of busy city traffic or a vacuum cleaner – we can be easily exposed to these levels of sound on a daily basis. It is important to reduce your exposure to loud noise which you can do in a variety of ways including the following:
- avoid places with loud background noise (restaurants, bars etc.) by avoiding peak hours and opting for quieter settings.
- roll up car windows while driving, especially through traffic.
- space out social activities in loud spaces (concert venues, sporting games, parties etc.).
It would be helpful to also measure noise level in the spaces you are in which you can do by downloading an app that actually measures the decibels in your environment!
Invest in Noise Cancelling Headphones
Headphones are a great way to protect hearing because they provide a barrier for noise. At the same time, headphones set on high volume settings can also be a risk to hearing health. Investing in noise cancellation headphones is a useful way to listen to audio safely, without comprising hearing. Noise cancellation technology is designed to reduce background noise, better isolating the sound your device is playing. This allows people to listen as normal volume levels without having to increase the sound while moving through noisier spaces.
This is particularly important now as the World Health Organization estimates that: 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults globally are at risk of developing hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices and exposure to damaging levels of sound in noisy entertainment venues. Wearing hearing protection and using noise cancelling headphones can significantly reduce this risk!
Take Listening Breaks
Our ears and brain are constantly processing sound throughout the day. Taking listening breaks provides rest and allows the auditory system to replenish. You can do this by powering off electronic devices and other sources of noise and enjoying activities without the presence of background noise.
Access Workplace Accommodations
This is especially critical for people with hearing loss in the workplace. Employers are required to provide accommodations that support and protect hearing health in the workplace. These accommodations range from installing physical barriers between you and sources of noise, relocating your work area, providing hearing protection, investing in technologies that support hearing etc. To access workplace accommodations, you have to have a hearing loss diagnosis and disclose this information with your employer. This allows you to have a conversation around the accommodations that can best meet your hearing needs in the workplace.
Get Hearing Tested Regularly
Hearing tests measure hearing ability in both ears which identifies any impairment and the degree of hearing loss present. Conducted by a hearing healthcare specialist, hearing tests also establish hearing needs and the most effective treatment options to meet those needs. Having your hearing tested regularly (yearly) is a great way to track hearing health and intervene early in response to any changes!