Hot Tips for Cool Summer Hearing

Gael Hannan
June 25, 2013

Summer’s here, whoo-hoo! Hot weather, summer rain, swimming, fresh air parties, and simply being outside. What’s not to love about summer?hot sun

Well, there’s bugs. Heat rash. Sunburn. Bad pedicures.

And to be even more of a wet blanket, all that fabulous summer living poses a threat to both our hearing and our hearing devices, with Loud Noise and Moisture sharing the spot for Enemy #1.  Noise damage is a leading cause of permanent hearing loss.

I said, NOISE DAMAGE IS A LEADING CAUSE OF PERMANENT HEARING LOSS! (Sorry, but it’s an important message.)

We all need  to protect ourselves from noise damage, even those of us who already have hearing loss.  And ‘everyone’ includes YOU, the one who wouldn’t dream of walking outside without having showered in 60SPF, a hat jammed on your head and a quart of cell-replenishing water strapped to your body.

Summer has many ways to blast our hearing from here to kingdom come and here are a few hot tips:

  • Fireworks can reach 130 decibels. The farther back you stand, the better. Keep some earplugs in your pocket.
  • Air shows are extremely loud. While I couldn’t find a decibel level for them, airshows with their roaring F-18s and whizzing acrobatic airplanes are loud enough to get children a-wailing and ears a-humming. Again, wear earplugs.
  • Outdoor concerts crank up the sound really, really loud so that everybody within a 10-mile radius can sing along. Wear earplugs and stand well back from the speakers.
  • Does the music from your MP3 player block out all background noises?  Try turning it down – anything over 85 dB is too loud.  A neat idea – download a free sound meter app for your MP3 player or smartphone and check how loudly you’re listening.
  • Grass grows fast in the summer, so lawn mowers and other garden thingies are working overtime…and they’re loud. Wear hearing protection.

Add Safe Listening to your health regime by turning down the volume, limiting the duration of noise exposure, standing back from the source and wearing hearing protection. (Earplugs are very chic these days.)

A note about noise and alcohol. Some studies have made the link between long-term alcohol abuse and hearing loss. But for the majority of us who are social or moderate drinkers, it’s important to know that getting looped on a few summer beers or coolers can temporarily increase our tolerance to loud noise, making us  forget to pop in those earplugs. So the next day’s hangover may not be totally due to the wine; a noise hangover will include ringing in the ears or speech sounding muffled.  So, as my grandfather the  Presbyterian preacher used to say – everything in moderation.  (While we’re speaking of indulgences, I’m glad that I quit smoking 20 years ago, because there’s also a connection between smoking and hearing loss.  If they find a significant link between coffee consumption and hearing loss, I’m gonna spit nails. Coffee is the only true vice I have left.)

Now for the other Enemy #1, moisture.   Users of hearing assistive technology start the  battle with moisture long before the summer solstice. Through the cooler, dryer months of the year, we may not be that meticulous about placing our aids or CI earpieces in a dry-aid kit each night. But in the summer humidity, we have to be fanatical about protecting our sensitive and expensive electronic devices.

Getting moisture in my hearing aids is one thing, drowning them is another. I’m nervous being around water with my hearing aids. These babies, whom I occasionally refer to as Billy and Bob, are my lifelines, and I don’t want to risk dampening their vital parts. When I canoe or kayak, for example, I do it deaf.  Once, on a sunset kayak with my boys (my husband and son, not Billy-Bob), we paddled close to two loons conversing with the universe. Reading a loon’s lips may not have been as satisfying as enjoying their vocal beauty, but it’s better than an unexpected kayak roll and ruining several thousand dollars’ worth of hearing aids.

Enjoy summer, it’s a short season. When we’re happy and relaxed, we hear better. I have no scientific study to back up that claim, but I know that when I’m less-stressed, it’s easier to deal with the challenges of hearing loss.

And for those of you who already enjoy good hearing – protect it.

  1. Thank you Gael Hannan for bringing yet more humor into the situation – reading a loon’s lips – I love it!

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