It’s that time again to start thinking about our New Year’s resolutions! At this time, we have a special opportunity to make changes in our lives that can yield vast improvements in our health and well-being, setting us off on adventures we may never have imagined! While there are plenty of things to consider when it comes to making changes in the new year, let us humbly suggest that getting a hearing test may be one of the best things you can do for yourself!
The Importance of Regular Hearing Tests
Hearing tests aren’t just for those who think they might need hearing aids. A regular hearing test lets you keep track of your hearing health over time, allowing you to make adjustments that could potentially save you from more severe hearing loss down the line.
Modern life is noisy, and within that noisy landscape, many of us engage in pastimes that also expose us to potentially dangerous amounts of noise. While we don’t need to avoid loud activities altogether, it is important to protect our hearing when we are engaged in them. Sometimes, we may think we’re protecting our hearing, even while we are being exposed to more noise than our hearing protection can handle. A regular hearing test throughout your life will allow you to discover hearing loss long before it actually causes you to have problems hearing. You can improve the quality of your hearing protection, decide to avoid certain activities, or perhaps discover that an improved diet could help you retain more of your hearing ability going forward. It’s all part of managing your hearing health, and the hearing test is the first step!
How Often Is Regular?
The Better Hearing Institute and The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)—both non-profit organizations—recommend getting a hearing test once every decade until age 50, and once every three years thereafter. Those in higher-risk professions, or with a higher risk due to their medical history, should be tested even more regularly. The more often you have your hearing tested, the more opportunities you’ll have to catch hearing loss before it becomes an issue, and to confirm that whatever protective measures you are taking against hearing loss are working!
How Can We Avoid Hearing Loss?
There are plenty of ways we can acquire hearing loss in our lives, and not all of them are preventable. But we want to make sure that the ways we can prevent it are not contributing to any hearing loss we have. By far the most common type of hearing loss is age-related hearing loss—or “presbycusis”—and there is no consensus in the medical community about whether this should be considered a “normal” part of aging, or a lifestyle-related ailment. After all, cancer is a condition much more prevalent amongst older adults but this doesn’t make it “normal”.
While there is evidence that eating an anti-inflammatory diet—such as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) or the Alternate Mediterranean Diet (AMED)—can prevent or decrease the severity of hearing loss, the Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss has noted that there is a genetic component to nearly every type of hearing loss!
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
One way that we can definitely help avoid hearing loss is to protect ourselves around noise. While everyone’s danger threshold is a little different, on average, 85 dBA (decibels A-weighted) of sound is enough to cause hearing loss after 8 hours of continuous exposure. For every additional 3 dBA, the safe period of exposure is cut in half. That means that when sound reaches 100 dBA, it only takes about 15 minutes of exposure to cause permanent hearing loss.
While 85 dBA is about the noise generated by a gas-powered lawn mower, 100 dBA is about the noise level we experience when riding a motorcycle, or at the average high school dance! More members of Gen-Z have hearing loss than Millennials, which is especially troubling when we consider that Gen-Z is the younger of these two generations. This may be the result of higher-efficiency PA systems, in tandem with more dance parties and the use of personal listening devices (PLDs).
To avoid NIHL, make sure to wear hearing protection whenever you are around loud sound. If you’re unsure of how loud an environment is, you can download an app on your smartphone that measures the SPL (sound pressure level) in the environment. However, it should be noted that most of these apps need to be calibrated with the use of an SPL meter that is known to be correct. Such devices can be purchased for around $30.
Any time sound climbs above 85 dBA, be sure to wear hearing protection. If you listen to PLDs regularly, remember to start with the volume down, and turn it up just loud enough so you can hear your content clearly. Consider getting noise-canceling headphones, which reduce the amount of ambient noise so that you can hear your desired content at a lower volume.
And, if you’re having trouble hearing, be sure to start wearing hearing aids as soon as possible, to avoid the complications of untreated hearing loss!
Prioritize your hearing in 2023, and make an appointment for a hearing test today!