Our hearing is precious. Helen Keller, the 20th century activist and educator who was challenged with both deafness and blindness, is quoted as saying: “Blindness cuts us off from things; deafness cuts us off from people….” We have learned so much about protection and treatment of hearing since she made this observation. Our work to help your ears to hear involves protecting, assessing and offering solutions to address your experience of hearing.
This is the first step in hearing health! Loud noise is the second hand smoke of the future. Recognizing the hazards of smoking to the smoker and to the person taking in the second hand smoke and then changing our behaviour was a long process. Let’s not take that long with noise exposure!
Your genetics, your overall health, and the circumstances of your sound exposure all play a role in what happens to your auditory system. When trying to figure out how much exposure to sound is acceptable, there are 2 factors to be taken into consideration: the duration ( length) of the exposure and the intensity ( loudness) . Lower levels of sound over a longer period of time can be as bad as brief, but very intense sounds. Occupational health and safety organizations have tried to come up with guidelines to protect workers. These guidelines are a best guess at what will help to prevent hearing loss since there is so much we don’t know about how noise causes damage to the body.
Equipment that we use daily like lawn mowers, power tools, chain saws, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers and even children’s toys can all produce levels of sound that are harmful to the organ of hearing. If you think it’s too loud, it probably is! Replace devices or toys that you aren’t comfortable listening to. When you can’t find a quieter option, wearing comfortably fitting muffs or plugs can help to prevent permanent hearing loss or tinnitus.
Being aware of the loudness of music is very important. If you are listening to your favourite tunes in a quiet environment, the intensity of the sound is less likely to harm your ears than if you are listening at the same “loudness” when you are in a noisy place like sitting on a bus. Custom earbuds or noise cancelling headphones can reduce the intensity of the signal reaching your cochlea while still providing a pleasant listening experience.
Concerts, and often bars and nightclubs, are not ear friendly! Sound levels can become so intense that workers in a place of employment would be required to wear hearing protection and might be limited to exposing themselves to the sound for only 15 minutes! The general way the calculations work is that the louder the sound gets, the less time you should be exposed to it. Protect your hearing with special hearing protection devices that are designed for music. The frequency response of these devices does not warp the sound of the music, but can reduce the intensity of the music to a safer level.
Musicians need to be particularly careful with their hearing. Pete Townsend realized this when he said: “Hearing loss is a terrible thing because it cannot be repaired.” Making adjustments to staging and using in-the-ear monitors or custom hearing protection can prolong the joy that musicians experience from their art.
Using or being in the presence of people using firearms is potentially lethal to your ears! Your audiologist can make recommendations to minimize the risk depending on your unique activity.
Snoring can be a very disruptive source of noise! Your audiologist can make recommendations for suitable options to improve your sleep quality.
Noise isn’t the only problem ears face. Some people are unable to tolerate water getting into their ears. Finding plugs that reliably keep water out of ears can be difficult especially for children. We have a number of custom options that make wearing plugs something to look forward to and put the fun back into swimming!
Few of us want to have to change our habits, but sometimes tweaking the behaviours we are not conscious of can make a huge difference in our lives. When someone in our life is hard of hearing or we are experiencing changes in how our hearing is working for us, there are a number of adaptations that we can make to make life easier.
A game is much easier to play if we know the rules! There are certain communication behaviours that we frequently engage in that are bound to lead to communication frustration. Your audiologist can give you some guidance regarding the best strategies for you to adapt to avoid those pitfalls. We encourage you to bring a family member or communication partner with you to your appointment. It’s much more fun when others understand how the game goes and can learn to adapt their own strategies.
When hearing loss is present, making speech and environmental sounds more visible and louder can help. Assistive listening device solutions are used to address specific problems on their own or along with hearing aids. There are any number of creative solutions for alarm clocks, land lines, cell phones, TV watching, listening in noisy places or at distances, and increasing environmental awareness.
One important safety consideration is fire awareness. If someone in your home is hard of hearing, test to make sure that your smoke detector will wake them up. If not, options are available with bed shakers to ensure that you or your family member will rise to the occasion!
Your audiologist can assist you to evaluate your needs and find suitable solutions.
Do hearing aids help? They most certainly do! It is wonderful to have the option to hear better when you need to. Hearing aids are the most portable, customizable, and in some ways, the easiest solution to addressing hearing problems and tinnitus. Hearing aids today process speech in noisy places better than ever and can receive sound from our cell phones, tablets, and TV!
Making the decision to try hearing aids can be the hardest part. Your audiologist can make recommendations about the style, the level of technology, and the manufacturer of the aids that they believe are the best aids for you to try. The hardest part can be getting your head around the idea of having to use them at all!
It’s hard to recognize when hearing has become a problem. There are a couple of ways for you to evaluate your situation. You might try any combination of these tools to help you to make your decision.
1. Screen your hearing with our online hearing test. It isn’t intended to give you an accurate, medical measurement of your hearing, but it will help to identify if you have a hearing problem.
2. You can look at your interactions with the people you talk to. Who do you wish you could understand better? Who is complaining about your hearing? Who do you notice you ask to repeat? Who has given you funny looks because you missed what they said?
So often we worry that we will look old or unattractive if we were to wear a hearing aid. We aren’t aware that people can think that we are rude for ignoring them, losing our smarts because we misunderstand them, or demand too much of their energy for them to tell the full story, so we only get the Reader’s Digest version.
Hearing aids should be regarded as a badge of honour. They are a statement that you care about the people in your life, you are interested in the world around you, and you are willing to take on innovative technology to get the most out of life.
If you are ready to consider the hearing aid option a try, you can educate yourself on the different choices you will be asked to make here.
These tools from the Ida Institute are designed to help you think about your hearing, your goals, and what you would like to talk about with your hearing care professional. Print or email your answers to take as talking points to your next appointment.
Getting ready to go to your first appointment about your hearing? Identify the places and situations where you would like to hear better and your reasons for wanting to improve your communication.
Don’t see the tool below? Click here.
Identify when and where it’s most important for you to hear and communicate well so you and your hearing care professional can plan how to deal with these situations together.
Don’t see the tool below? Click here.
Our independent and locally owned clinic is able to offer patient focused services. We care for you and your family like you are our own family.