Your habits may be sabotaging your hearing. In this article, discover how implementing exercise, hearing protection, and social interaction can help maintain your hearing even as you age.
The pandemic has caused several of us to forsake the gym and exercise in general. Have you heard of the “quarantine 15?” Obviously, several factors contribute to gaining 15 pounds during quarantine, but the greatest of these is lack of exercise. This spring, let’s commit to get out there and enjoy the beautiful spring weather and, in doing so, lessen our risk of hearing loss.
Data on risk factors related to hearing loss are limited, but several reputable studies suggest that changing our daily habits can affect our hearing. One of those studies, published by the American Journal of Medicine, states that people who participate in physical activity reduce their risk of developing hearing loss. According to the article, this reduced risk is especially true of women who walk more than 2 hours per week.
Interestingly, hearing loss is not caused by strenuous exercise, but exercise can help maintain healthy hearing despite one’s age. As an audiologist, I counsel patients regarding the common stigmas associated with hearing loss, such as aging. These studies affirm that hearing loss isn’t always directly caused by age.
During the pandemic, a record number of people made improvements to their homes. Did you hear all the power tools running in your neighborhood?
Everything from in-home offices to backyard decks were and still are being constructed as the pandemic sparked various home-improvement projects.
Tools such as table saws, drills, and sanders can cause hearing loss, especially if the sounds they make are long, repeated, or reach at or above 85 dBA. Before you start that new home improvement project, make sure to purchase over-the-counter hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs; we carry several options at our hearing center!
If the over-the-counter options are not suitable, visit us to obtain custom hearing protection. You will be surprised by the functionality and durability of professionally made hearing protection.
A handheld belt sander can reach up to 103 dBA, depending on the quality and condition of the tool.
An average table saw can reach up to 100 dBA.
The normal handheld drill produces between 90 and 94 dBA, and hammer drills produce in excess of 100 dBA.
During this pandemic, you may have personally experienced social isolation. My patients have told me they hadn’t interacted in-person with loved ones or friends for weeks, if not months. As humans, we thrive on healthy social interactions. Without them, your physical, mental, and cognitive health can suffer. According to a 2019 study led by Kassandra Alcaraz, Ph.D., MPH, a public health researcher with the American Cancer Society: “Our research really shows that the magnitude of risk presented by social isolation is very similar in magnitude to that of obesity, smoking, lack of access to care and physical inactivity.”
You might be thinking, “How can a lack of social interaction worsen my hearing?” While social isolation may not affect the level at which you can hear, it can affect your brain’s ability to process the information. Hearing is not just about your ears. Your brain plays a big role in how you process and understand sound.
As we age, our cognition can be affected by decreased social interaction. As our cognitive function declines, so does our ability to process information. For many, this change may seem like hearing loss, but what is actually happening is the loss of the ability to process the information while the function of hearing remains the same.
As we emerge from the isolation that this pandemic has caused, let’s focus on rebuilding those connections with our friends, neighbors and our community. Not only does engaging with our loved ones strengthen our psychological health, it also helps strengthen our brain and our ability to process what we hear.