May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, and every year I’m disappointed in the amount of coverage Hearing gets. I have substantial experience with hearing loss, cochlear implants, hearing aids, personal FM systems, and educating people on how these items work. Did you know that hearing loss can be preventable with healthy auditory practices in place?
- Turn it down!
If you’re anything like me, you love your music loud. In your car so you can perform a solo concert, in a studio so you can feel the rhythm you’re dancing to, in your headphones to block out other stimuli. I am completely guilty of all of these, despite being aware that all of this can cause hearing loss. Blasting music in your earbuds is making your tympanic membrane (eardrum) work overtime, as well as all the other bones in your ears. This sets a new standard of normal, causing it to be more difficult to hear in quieter situations. It may also result in you speaking at a louder volume because you don’t believe you’ll be heard.
- Protect your hearing.
Depending on your exposure, there are a variety of ways to do this. My friends in bands who perform very loudly tend to pay for custom ear molds to protect their hearing as an occupational hazard. Think of this as a professional-grade earplug. Music isn’t the only sound source of a greater volume. Sporting events are notoriously loud. Consider earplugs or even headphones the next time you go.
Let’s say you have some form of hearing loss. When you’re in loud spaces, advocate for yourself. If you’re at a restaurant, and your table in near someplace noisy, like the kitchen, ask if you can be seated at another table. We all know dining is a communal experience, but it’s hard to take it in if you’re focusing more than usual to take in the conversation.
Did you miss something in conversation? Ask your conversational partner to repeat what was said. Some sounds, usually those in higher frequencies (s/th/t/ch/sh) are the easiest to miss and the hardest to see when someone is speaking. I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t remind repeating myself.
- No more cotton swabs.
Okay, I know we all use these products. Guess what? Most of us are not using them correctly. Stop and take a look at the packaging, I’ll be right here when you come back. That’s right, the directions state they’re not to be used in your ears! These have caused more injuries than other instruments, simply because we’re not great at reading directions. Believe it or not, the wax in your ears is there to keep germs out and to protect your ears. Removing it may not be the best option for most. If you’re having a hard time with this issue, I recommend consulting with an audiologist.
I hope you’ve found this post helpful and informative. Your hearing is an important part of your communicative experience in all aspects of your life. It’s up to you to do your best to take care of it. My challenge this week is for you to take steps to protect your hearing. Let me know your new habits in comments.
Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
—Stef the StageSLP