It’s a new year! For so many people, the early days of January and February mean looking toward the next 12 months and making their new year resolutions. Whether it’s exercising, traveling more, or simply dropping a bad habit, new year resolutions are all about doing something better for yourself. At MDHearingAid, we think that should include taking better care of your hearing. Here are six simple new year resolutions with your hearing health in mind.
1. Eat a More Balanced Diet
This first of the hearing health new year resolutions might be one you already have in mind for yourself. Eating well can have many benefits for your overall health, including your hearing health. For instance, consistent consumption of vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids (often found in seafood) could help protect against hearing loss. A study from 2007 also suggests magnesium can help reduce damage from noise trauma, especially when included with vitamins A, C, and E. Magnesium rich foods include avocados, dark chocolate, bananas, black beans, nuts, whole grains, and leafy greens.
Just remember, a balanced diet is the key. Taking too many of any one vitamin or mineral can actually be harmful for your health, especially if you’re on medication. Discuss any supplements or major dietary changes with your physician.
2. Get to Know Your Medications
More than 200 drugs, ranging from over-the-counter medications to chemotherapy, can increase the risk of hearing loss, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Ototoxic drugs are poisonous to the ear and can result in hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), and balance disorders.
These medications include diuretics, certain antibiotics used to treat kidney disease and similar conditions, chemotherapy, and treatment for heart disease. But it’s not just prescription drugs. When used regularly, over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen can also cause hearing loss, particularly in adult men.
The risk of hearing loss is more serious for those taking higher doses of medications. That said, it’s important to talk to your doctor about potential side effects whenever you’re prescribed a new drug. If you notice a change in your hearing while taking the medication, make sure to let your doctor know right away.
3. Invest in Ear Protection
It’s always a good idea to wear ear plugs to firework shows, concerts, and other loud events. Whether you prefer foam or silicone, ear plugs are inexpensive protection against loud noises. Many people only think to buy ear plugs when they’re going to attend a live concert, but why not plan ahead of time and keep some ear plugs in your bag for other loud environments, such as sporting events, bars, or restaurants. Store bought ear plugs can protect up to 35 decibels, although you’ll need to look at the packaging to see how much any one brand can protect.
Ear protection isn’t just important for loud entertainment — there are hearing loss risks closer to home, too. Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, drills, and other loud household equipment can reach over 100 decibels. Like with your listening devices, permanent hearing loss is possible in as little as 15 minutes of using this kind of equipment without protection. If you’re doing a lot of work around the house with this kind of equipment, buying some protective ear muffs (not the kind for snow, but the kind specifically designed to mute very loud sounds) can help you avoid unnecessary hearing loss.
4. Put Down the Q-tips
For many people, it’s very tempting to use Q-tips to clean out your ears. However, pushing cotton swabs into your ears can actually push the wax build-up deeper, causing sensorineural hearing loss and even permanently damaging your eardrum. Instead of using a Q-tip, there are over-the-counter wax removal solutions that gently get rid of build-up within a few days of use. If that doesn’t work, it could be time to go to an ear, nose, and throat doctor or audiologist to safely remove the blockage.
5. Turn Down Your Music
This is perhaps the simplest of this list’s new year resolutions. Many older people are tempted to crank up their listening devices as they start to get hard of hearing. The longer you’re exposed to a loud noise, the more risk you have for hearing loss. Our smartphones, radios, CD players, and other listening devices can get as loud as 100 decibels. At that level, hearing damage can happen within 15 minutes of listening. So even music turned up only a little louder than it should be can greatly damage your hearing when you listen at that volume all the time.
ASHA suggests keeping your music at less than 85 decibels. Since most devices don’t tell you what decibel it’s at, work on keeping your volume below the 60 percent level. If your family tends to play loud music while they’re spending time with you, considering talking to them about lowering the volume, for their hearing health as well as yours.
Along with the sound level, be careful when using ear buds. Because they’re so close to your ear drums, listening at a high volume is even more dangerous. And if you’re using your earbuds while exercising, you’re more likely to push them in deeper to keep them in place.
If you’re a musician, or just like to go to loud concerts, check out this article on the best earplugs for musicians.
6. Get Your Hearing Tested
While prevention should be a big part of your hearing health resolutions, you might not even realize you already have some form of hearing loss. Make one of your new year resolutions to schedule a hearing test appointment. Just like getting your eyes tested and keeping your general physical check-up, having your hearing tested should be part of your ongoing health wellness plan. Once your hearing is lost, it is gone for good. By keeping up with hearing tests, you and your audiologist can best understand your current hearing health and take steps to keep the hearing you still have. Catching these issues early is crucial.
We suggest getting your hearing checked every three years. However, if you notice yourself having more and more trouble hearing clearly, you should schedule the appointment as soon as possible, regardless of when you were last tested.
7. Finally Get Hearing Aids
Maybe you’ve had trouble hearing conversations for a while now. Maybe you’ve gotten your hearing test and your audiologist advised you to get hearing aids. For many older adults, buying hearing aids for the first time seems like an investment they can put off. The options offered by the audiologists and hearing clinics are so expensive. Plus, if you’ve already been making due without hearing aids up until now, it’s okay to put it off a while longer right?
Consistent healthy quality of life as you age often relies on keeping all your senses strong, and hearing loss tends to be followed by other serious health issues. Impaired communication, emotional isolation, cognitive decline, and balance issues have all been connected to hearing loss. Delaying getting hearing aids can expedite these connected problems.
On top of that, while hearing aids don’t cure hearing loss, they can help you maintain the hearing you still have. Investing in your hearing health means recognizing when you need help and getting the tools you need to keep yourself healthy.
MDHearingAid offers more affordable hearing aid options specifically designed for mild to moderately severe hearing loss.
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