Ask a Pro
Q: When’s the Best Time to Have My Hearing Tested?
A: Now! Even if you have normal hearing, now is the time to have it tested. This establishes a “baseline.” Later, if your ability to hear changes, your doctor and your audiologist will be better equipped to determine how much and how rapidly it has changed. This will help greatly in planning a proper course of action.
Q: What is “Recreational Hearing Loss?”
A: Summertime in western Colorado is rich with opportunities for enjoying a host of outdoor activities from A-Z (ATV-ing to zip-lining). Some of those activities can lead to “recreational hearing loss.” Most people remember to protect their skin from the high desert sun but how many of us remember to protect our hearing? While sunshine is great for our mood and offers a fun time to enjoy our favorite activities, it’s important to remember that many popular summer happenings can be hazardous to our ears. Prolonged exposure to the sounds of lawn mowers, power tools, motorized vehicles, sporting events, concerts and more can lead to irreversible hearing damage. Luckily, by taking a few simple precautions to safeguard our hearing during the summer months, we can enjoy a safe, healthy and happy summer.
Experts at the Better Hearing Institute, an organization devoted to educating people about proper hearing health and the benefits of hearing loss treatment, offer these important tips:
- Use earplugs. If we think we might be exposed to loud sounds, whether it comes from target shooting, dirt biking or even something as mundane as a lawnmower, let’s always remember to wear earplugs or protective muffs. When used correctly, disposable foam or silicone plugs are readily available and can allow us to hear important sounds while blocking dangerously loud noises. Even better are custom earmolds for a personalized fit that guarantees comfortable, durable and dependable protection. Prevention is cheaper and more convenient that living with and treating hearing loss.
- Keep the volume down. When the windows are open and the sounds of summer are all around, it may be tempting to turn up the volume on our TVs, radios, movies or music—but this can be damaging to our hearing! When we use earbuds or headphones to listen to personal music devices such as iPods and other MP3 players, we frequently play our music too loudly. Let’s keep the volume at a safe level and resist the urge to crank up the sound. Remember: once the tiny “hair cells” in the cochlea are damaged, they do not grow back.
- Limit time in noisy environments. Let’s take steps to limit the length of time we spend in noisy environments. When participating in noisy activities, let’s give ourselves periodic quiet breaks—and remember our earplugs! Those of us planning to attend any of the nearly dozen outdoor concerts taking place in western Colorado and eastern Utah this summer should seriously consider “musician’s earplugs.” These custom-fitted little gems are prized by professional musicians the world over because they are designed to keep the loud music at safe levels while allowing performers to still hear the full range of their music. They work equally well for concert-goers! Check with an audiologist for more info.
- Protect against swimmer’s ear. For many of us, there’s nothing more refreshing than a cool swim, or some whitewater kayaking or rafting on a hot day, but water in our ear canals can lead to a painful infection known as swimmer’s ear. We can protect ourselves by investing in a pair of swimmer’s plugs to wear during our favorite water activities. We should also dry our ears thoroughly and tilt our heads to the side to drain any residual water from our ear canals. No Q-Tips allowed!
- Enjoy fireworks safely. Fireworks may be synonymous with the 4th of July, but somehow fireworks linger all through the summer, mysteriously appearing in many a backyard for impromptu celebrations. The loud noise from these displays is often equivalent to gunfire and can permanently damage our hearing. I’m sure many of us have noticed that the first “boom” is often the loudest. After that, the rest don’t seem quite so loud. That’s not because the first one was stronger than the rest. It’s because we’ve just damaged our hearing. Sometimes our ears recover but, there’s no guarantee that it will. With that in mind, let’s enjoy fireworks from a safe distance and, for added protection, wear earplugs.
- Whether at a backyard barbeque, a summer concert, or taming a wild river, remembering these simple steps for protecting our hearing will help ensure that we’ll be able to enjoy our favorite activities for many more years to come!
Jo-an Mealler, M.S., CCC-A, F-AAA
Jo-an Mealler, has been a practicing Audiologist for over 3 decades, with 25 of those years in Grand Junction. She holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Audiology from Colorado State University and has completed extensive post graduate work from the University of Iowa. Jo-an is a Fellow of the American Academy of Audiology, is board-certified by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association and is state and nationally certified to practice audiology and dispense hearing aids.
Q: Can hearing loss affect my outdoor recreation?
A: Hearing loss robs us of the richness of the Great Outdoors. Not hearing footsteps on the trail, stories around a campfire, line spooling off a reel or humming birds darting through the forest, limits us to a one-dimensional walk in the woods.
The Solitude of Crag Crest Trail is Far From Silent
Solitude needn’t be silent.
Call us. We’ll help you reclaim the joy of the Great Outdoors.
Kellan Williams, BC-HIS
For more thoughts about hearing loss and maximizing your outdoor experience, visit these links:
- Hearing Loss: Only You Can Prevent Brain Rot
- Five Tips for Healthy Summertime Hearing
- Myths About Hearing Loss
Q: Should motorcyclists worry about their hearing?
A: Yes! Research shows that the main cause of hearing loss among motorcyclists is wind noise. At 35 mph and above wind noise, at the ear, (even with a full, snug fitting helmet) is as loud as a chainsaw and will cause permanent hearing damage over time. Call us. We can help you protect your hearing and still enjoy your bike. For more on this topic check out the following links:
Dr. Joe McDermott, Au.D.
Q: I’m afraid hearing aids will make me look old.
A: Many things make us look old, like always telling people to “stop mumbling,” staying home instead of being out having fun, or losing a promotion to someone who seems “sharper.” Hearing loss makes us seem old. Dealing with it helps us look and act younger. Call us. We can help.
Kellan Williams, BC-HIS
Q: Can hearing aids help my balance?
A: Sometimes. Imagine trying to maintain balance with your eyes closed and ears plugged. While some balance issues aren’t hearing-related, per se, a recent study showed that hearing aid users performed better in balance tests when both hearing aids were turned on rather than off.
Joe McDermott, Au.D.
Q: How often should hearing aids be replaced?
A: We help our patients maximize the value of their hearing aids with regular maintenance, reprogramming and repairs. However, many choose to upgrade their hearing aids every 4-5 years. By then, technology has improved so much that it often makes more sense to upgrade. By about the seventh year, the scarcity of critical parts makes repairs virtually impossible.
Dr. Joe McDermott, Au.D.
Q: Hearing loss is normal. Why should I worry about it?
A: Hearing loss is more than not hearing well. It has been shown to increase the risk of brain shrinkage, memory problems, stress, fatigue, mental decline, dementia, social isolation and depression—any of which can be life changing for you and your family. If you’re ready to learn more about your hearing health, call us. We can help!