“Happy Thursday,” he said. I replied, still in bed: “Happy birthday? It’s not my birthday.” “Happy THURSDAY,” he said again with greater emphasis. “I’d sign it, but it’s too dark,” he said as he headed out the door.
This week I learned that my first big purchase of 2020 will be hearing aids. After five years of annual tests with declining results and happy Thursday exchanges like this one – it’s time. I’m ready for it.
Hearing aids have come a long way since my grandmother’s heavy clips that required constant tuning and adjustments. The brochure handed to me by my audiologist boasts “multifunctional hearing aids that convey a love at first sound experience.”
Today, hearing aids can be plugged directly into smart phones and used like wireless stereo headphones. The batteries are rechargeable. There is a ton of sophisticated technology neatly contained in a much smaller unit that by today’s standards looks like a typical ear bud.
My audiologist noted that I’m young for hearing aids. But she attributed my hearing loss to chronic exposure to loud noises and potentially other hereditary factors. Those close to me will acknowledge all my signs of hearing loss: having to turn up the volume of the television or radio, asking others to repeat themselves or misinterpreting conversations because I have difficulty understanding certain words or voices.
Other common signs of hearing loss noted by the Canadian Hearing Society include:
- Speaking louder than necessary
- Straining to hear
- Thinking people always mumble
- Ringing or buzzing in one or both ears
My hearing loss is caused by the wear and tear on the hairs or inner nerve cells within the ear that send electrical signals to the brain. This is not totally surprising to me as for years I spent hours in a car listening to music at higher levels while I commuted to work. I would also engage in activities like lawn cutting without proper ear protection. When inner ear damage occurs, sound converted by our ears into electrical signals are disrupted or don’t make it to the brain. Clearly, my brain no longer interprets sound accurately.
We live in a noisy world. In her book The Nature Fix author Florence Williams notes that noise levels created by humans have been doubling about every thirty years, faster than population growth. Exposure to constant noise also contributes to chronic stress. She notes in a study of 2,000 men over age 40, environmental noise above 50 decibels was associated with a 20 percent increase in hypertension.
So here are a few tips to preserve and protect your hearing and prevent noise-induced hearing loss:
- Protect Your Ears: If you are working in a noisy environment, wear ear plugs or ear protection. The best protection is to limit the duration and intensity of sound your ears are exposed to.
- Go for regular hearing tests. If you’ve lost some hearing, you can take steps to prevent further loss.
- Avoid recreational risks: Myself I enjoy the occasional concert, but concerts are loud and can damage your hearing. Activities such as riding a snowmobile, using power tools or lawn mowers can also be damaging.
- Seek out quiet spaces: When you’re stressed, go to a quiet place such as a park or library. Give yourself a break from the noise that defines our modern world.
I’m looking forward to hearing the clarity of natural bird song again. Happy Thursday.
About the Author: Jennifer Garland is the Owner/Program Director of The Mane Intent, offering Health and Wellness Workshops and Individual and Team Effectiveness Coaching. Jennifer’s intent is to bring horses, donkeys and humans together to explore new possibilities and find new meaning in lived experience. Learn more about Jennifer’s corporate experience, lectures, awards and publications, here
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