What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of healthy hearing? Is it successfully passing a hearing test? Or perhaps it’s the ability to clearly understand speech in noisy environments. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, 48 million Americans report having some degree of hearing loss — that’s nearly 20% of Americans1. Fortunately, valuable resources to improve and support hearing health are easily accessible. So, whether you’d like to reduce the risk of hearing loss, or you’re looking for strategies to improve your hearing overall, here are five ways to get started:
- Protect your ears. One of the most prevalent causes of significant hearing loss is noise exposure. Thus, a key to keeping your hearing at its best is by protecting it — the louder the noise and the longer you’re exposed to it, the greater your chances of damaging your hearing. Identify places and situations where you are most susceptible to loud noise, and take proper measures to protect your hearing. Carry earplugs with you (in a pocket or purse) and use them in loud environments, control volume by following the 60/60 rule — listen to music at no more than 60% volume for no more than 60 minutes a day — and be sure to give your ears time to recover!
- Practice active listening. This exercise can help you stay focused in conversation by redirecting your mind from the thoughts inside your head to the dialogue at hand. Practice paraphrasing in discussions, make the effort to draw out details that may not have been outwardly shared, pretend you will be tested on how much the other person is saying. Try listening to audiobooks, perhaps even read along with a hard copy while you listen! These are all great ways to adopt active listening as a habit — keeping your eyes, ears, and brain actively working together. The more you practice, the easier it becomes to focus on words being spoken during a conversation, even in noisy environments.
- Walk more often. According to a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, those who walked an average of two hours each week displayed a reduced risk for developing or worsening hearing loss. How? Cardio exercise increases blood flow throughout our bodies, including our ears. And maintaining this blood flow is integral to our hearing health. The tiny hair cells that are responsible for translating sound into electrical impulses for our brains to process can only work to their full potential when blood flow is actively reaching them. So, go ahead, walk it out!
- Talk to a Hearing Care Professional. Did you know that hearing loss is often left untreated because many people aren’t aware they’re suffering from it? The most effective way to be on top of your hearing health and recognize the signs of hearing loss is to have regular consultations with a Hearing Care Professional, like an Audiologist. Hearing evaluations allow these professionals to determine the current state of your hearing, starting with a baseline hearing test, and then can easily monitor for any changes that may occur in the future. Because hearing typically diminishes with time, you shouldn’t wait to meet with your Audiologist — get all the information you need to protect, enhance and understand your hearing as soon as you can.
- Use a hearing instrument. If you’ve already been diagnosed with hearing loss and have been fitted with a hearing aid by a Hearing Care Professional, wearing them as recommended may greatly improve your hearing! Think of hearing like a muscle: The more it’s actively worked, the stronger it will become. Using hearing aids gives your ears the boost they need, so sound becomes clear and recognizable. There are even hearing aids that can intelligently detect noise and control amplification quickly and easily — adapting smoothly to changing sound situations for incredibly natural listening experiences.