Hidden Hearing on winter’s hearing hazards
Darker evenings and dank weather means we rely more on our sense of hearing to alert us to danger.
Pedestrians need to be sure they can hear the approach and relative speed of traffic, even if just crossing the road.
The fact that good hearing is crucially important to safety is one of the key messages of Ireland’s Campaign for Better Hearing, backed by Hidden Hearing.
In a work environment or outdoors, maybe gardening or working on a farm, missing a warning call about imminent danger can mean injury or worse.
“Dad lives for his golf. But the day he didn’t put the brake on the buggy properly, he took a hard knock that kept him off the fairways for three months”, Jane says.
“The silly thing is that two people nearby yelled a warning. But, poor dad had his back turned and was oblivious to the runaway golf buggy”.
Jane’s family knew their father’s hearing was bad. But he laughed it off, and the TV and radio stayed on top volume!
After the accident on the golf course, the family insisted on a hearing test, and Paddy was fitted with hearing aids that have given him a new lease of life.
Winter Hearing Woes
Winter can actually make hearing that bit harder!
Prolonged lower temperatures is bad for hearing, especially if near freezing, according to Dolores Madden, a director of Hidden Hearing and qualified audiologist.
Exposing your ears to severe cold can lead to tinnitus, temporary ringing in the ears, and even hearing loss, she says.
“The body tries to protect itself, which can lead to abnormal growths in the inner ear. This makes it difficult for sound to travel through the ear, and also traps earwax”.
More common in countries with very cold winters, this condition, exostosis, is seen a lot in surfers who spend time in cold waters, earning it the name ‘surfer’s ear’.
Wearing proper protection, like earmuffs and hats, will keep ears warm and safe, and is essential for the hardy golfers, hillwalkers and other athletes who persist with their sport outdoors during winter.
Winter weather also hardens earwax, so it is helpful to have ears cleaned of any build-up, to maintain good hearing. Micro-suction is the safest and quickest method; totally pain-free and completed in minutes. Plus, it’s available free for over 50s at Hidden Hearing outlets!
If nightclubs, concerts or Christmas parties are coming up soon, protect your hearing by avoiding the areas nearest to speakers, or even using light earplugs at intervals to rest the ears.
At a party, if you can’t find a quiet area to chat, don’t be afraid to ask to turn down the music. Music can become overpowering, combined with lots of voices, so you’re probably not the only one who would prefer it down a notch!
If you listen to music or podcasts on the go, stick to the 60:60 rule. Listen at 60% of the maximum volume of your device, for no more than 60 minutes a day.
Headphones, smart phones and other personal music devices are popular Christmas gifts, but it really is best to avoid the top volume setting. It’s usually 100 decibels/dB, which is the equivalent noise level to a jet airplane taking-off!
Research last year showed that a third of Irish people who listen to music on a mobile phone or device like an MP3 player are listening at dangerously high levels, and for twice as long as is safe.
In-ear buds, often used by young people on their tablets and phones, offer less protection than headphones, according to Dolores Madden.
“It’s not so much the noise, but the sound pressure with ear buds that can cause harm. It goes straight into the inner ear canal, so is dangerous if listening for long periods at maximum volume”, she says.
You can also damage your hearing by not protecting your ears while mowing the lawn, using power tools or at noisy events like a motor rally or air show. Walk away from the noise for 10 minutes at least every hour, or, even better, get a pair of ear plugs or hearing protection.
Hearing Aid Care
For those with hearing aids, a winter hearing exam is helpful to determine if they need upgrading.
People also need to be thorough about cleaning hearing aids in winter, as the ears tend to produce more wax when there is an object inserted in them for long periods of time. Any excess wax build-up affects a hearing aid’s functioning, so extra maintenance may be needed.
Cold weather and moisture can cause hearing aids to malfunction too, if they aren’t properly cared for. “When moving between the chilly outdoors and warm buildings frequently, maybe out shopping, wipe down your hearing aids to make sure they aren’t collecting condensation”, Dolores Madden advises.
“If you hear crackling, weakened sound or static, thoroughly dry your hearing aid, and check with your audiologist if the distortion hasn’t disappeared overnight”, she says.
For those enjoying a winter holiday, hearing aids need to be top of the packing list, and take some extra batteries in your carry-on bag, just in case. Rechargeable hearing aids are convenient too, as there’s no need to buy and replace batteries; but remember to pack converters for charging, if heading for continental Europe or further afield.
Recognise the Signs
The early signs of hearing loss should be checked out, so book a free hearing test if you notice one or more of the following;
– You’re constantly turning the TV or radio up
– People mumble more, and you struggle to hear children’s voices
– You avoid social situations, or places with background noise where it’s hard to hear
– You miss conversation detail on the phone
– Everyday sounds like birds, footsteps or the car indicator noise have disappeared!
Book you free hearing test today by clicking here or simply call 1850 80 40 50.