Now we know that looking after your hearing doesn’t have the same appeal as working on your pecs (that’s the muscle in your upper arm/chest for you non-gym junkies) or working on your mindfulness – we get it. But, whether we like to admit it or not, having good hearing is just as important – no, sorry more so – than having a “ripped” body, or feeling super chilled and at peace with the world.
After all, if you’re constantly straining to hear people, or you think you’re becoming one of those annoying people who keep saying “what did he say?” in the movies (you know who you are!) then it could be time to have an honest think about the true state of your hearing.
I said, it could be time to have a think about your hearing…
After all, you take care of other things, right? You eat well, exercise regularly, clean your teeth, floss and go to the dentist for your annual check-up. Don’t you? And in the same way you make sure to get your eyes tested, your hearing also needs a little love — it needs regular checking, a bit of maintenance and to be treated right too.
While it would be nice to sit in quiet contemplation 24/7, the world isn’t like that and, quite frankly, how boring would that be? The world’s a noisy, crazy place and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Music pumping gym classes, surround-sound movies, Friday night karaoke, the banter at your local bar, all those endless farewell concert tours, and who doesn’t l-o-v-e that magic sound of the coffee machine starting up at your favourite café?
The trouble is – and we hate to tell you this – that all this incoming sound can also put an accumulative load on your hearing, resulting over time for some people in hearing loss.
While most of us accept that losing our hearing is a normal part of the aging process – about one third of people over the age of 65 experience some form of it – the reality is, we actually have more control than we might think over the level and age of hearing loss, and how we manage it if/when it does develop.
And if you’re younger than that and already finding it hard to hear, don’t panic – there’s a lot you can do about it right now.
A few small changes to your everyday life can potentially prevent any further hearing loss and keep you and your ears (and your date at the movies) happier together for a whole lot longer.
How you can help prevent hearing loss
So while there’s no miracle cure for hearing loss, and we can’t turn back the clock on any existing loss, there are lots of things you can do to help prevent further deterioration, and protect the hearing you do have. Check out our 5-point easy check list below.
1. Check the volume
Cranking the music up on your headphones can really give your ears a beating. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends the 60-60 rule – no more than 60% volume for 60 minutes per day. Boring, we know, but necessary.
2. Take breaks from loud places
If you work or spend a lot of time in a noisy environment, it’s important to rest your ears like you might stretch your legs. Getting out of there every hour for 10 minutes will allow your ears some quiet time to reset.
If you’re at a super loud party or concert (remember them? Thanks COVID!), wearing ear plugs to reduce the noise level will not only prevent that annoying post-event ringing in the ears, but also protect your ears long-term. They’ll also give you the added bonus of feeling smug when your fellow party/concert goers are shouting at each other on the way home!
3. Protect your ears
If you’re in a noisy environment, having appropriate hearing protection is essential. If you’re on a worksite for example, ear muffs are a must. And if you spend your days (either at home or work) with music beating away in the background, then keep those levels in check – that means low – to help preserve your hearing.
And, sorry to say, while ear pods might be the cool high-tech option for us gadget guys/gals, over-ear headphones are a gentler option on your ears and hearing.
4. Turn down the music
Rule of thumb here, if you can’t hear someone talking about one metre away while music is playing, then the music is too loud.
And, if you’re listening to music through headphones or earbuds and someone next to you can hear it, that’s also an obvious tell-tale sign that things are getting a little loud. And if you’re one of those annoying people who listen to loud music via headsets or ear pods on public transport, then you might need to brush up on your social skills (sorry, just sayin’), along with turning it down for your own hearing preservation.
5. Avoid swimmer’s ear
And if you’re partial to a quick dip in the pool or ocean from time to time, then there are a few tricks to be aware of here too – as swimming can also impact your ears and therefore your hearing. Regular swimming can actually waterlog your ears and cause a condition known as “swimmer’s ear.” This can cause your ear to become inflamed and infected, and over time it has the potential to affect your hearing.
Use swimming ear plugs if you like to swim regularly, and dry your ears well after each dip. You could also maybe try swimming with your head out of the water like your gran used to. Yes, you’ll look like a bit of a dork but hey, who’ll be laughing when you can still hear a pin drop at 90?
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How you can help prevent hearing loss
Much like exercising your pecs (or whatever your favourite exercises are), your hearing can benefit from regular workouts too. Tailored listening exercises can strengthen the hearing pathways, helping to preserve your hearing and slow down hearing loss.
If you try these simple listening exercises every day, it’s a way to help keep your ears “hearing fit”:
Why not trade up from sudoku or cross words to a few limbering “memory stretches”?
- Ask a friend to say three numbers out loud. Repeat them back, in reverse order. Once you’ve recited three numbers, increase to four numbers, then five and so on.
- Ask a friend to read out three sentences from a book or newspaper. When they’ve finished, repeat back the first and last word of the passage. Increase the difficulty as you go.
Music training helps improve your ability to make sense of speech sounds. Websites such as thetamusic.org have good music training games that’ll keep you on your toes.
You can also use music to help focus your hearing while there is background noise.
- Play some music and have a friend talk to you at a normal volume while standing at a reasonable distance.
- Focus on filtering out the music.
- As you get better at the exercise, add more sounds to the mix.
Find a place to sit without any interruption and close your eyes.
- Focus on the sounds around you. What can you hear?
- Try to identify the sound furthest away from you. Focus on that sound for a moment, then try to listen to a closer sound.
- Try to identify as many sounds as possible.
How hearing aids can help, no matter how old you are…
If you’ve already noticed a change in your hearing, then you’ll be well aware that hearing loss has the potential to have a significant impact on your quality of life and lifestyle. But being proactive, and taking the first step, will get you back on the path to enjoying better hearing.
If you think your hearing might not be as good as it used to be, then schedule a check-up with your GP, visit one of our Clinicians or take our online hearing test, it’s easy to do from home, and takes only 10 minutes.
The sooner you take action, potentially the better the outcome.
While hearing loss can be a total nuisance in many aspects of your health and social life, left untreated it can also have an adverse effect on the parts of the brain responsible for processing hearing? And no one wants that – no thanks.
Hearing aids can help to reverse that decline by stimulating those neural pathways again. Rather than making all sounds louder, hearing aids amplify the sounds we need to hear, such as speech (and yes, even those movies!).
And while no-one comes to the decision to get fitted with hearing aids lightly, if/when you need them, we hear from our clients that they want to look at small (and we mean tiny) devices made by innovative Australian-founded companies (like ours), and talk to people who really “get” them, understand their busy lifestyle needs, love a bit of tech talk, and really speak their language.
We understand it can take a while to get used to the idea of hearing loss — and potentially hearing aids — but rest assured, the sooner you take the first step, the sooner you’ll be able to get back to the lifestyle you enjoy. With today’s technology and design, our hearing aids are innovative, small and sophisticated – and even better than that, they can transform the way you hear and connect with the busy, noisy world around you.
Date night at the movies, here we come…