Now that the new year is in full swing, how about a little motivation to help you get on the self-improvement path? Allow me to help! As your local audiologist, I want to make sure I’m sharing the latest and greatest information on hearing health with my patients, and I’m excited to share what I’ve found recently about how making some small changes can have a big impact not only on your overall health but your hearing as well. Ready? Let’s dig in:

Walking 2 Hours Per Week Can Maintain Your Hearing

One of my roles as an audiologist is to diagnose and treat hearing loss. Over the last 25 years, I have helped thousands of individuals with chronic and disabling hearing loss. While I’ve found hearing loss is incredibly common, data on risk factors for hearing loss are limited. Recently, I came across several studies that suggest changes to one’s daily habits can reduce the onset of hearing loss (WOW!). One of those studies, published by the American Journal of Medicine, states that people have a lower risk of developing hearing loss if they participate in physical activities – specifically, women who walk more than two hours per week. The studies I reviewed found that the exercise didn’t have to be strenuous – simply moving a little more over the course of a week can help maintain your hearing, regardless of your age. While I often counsel my patients about the fact that hearing loss is frequently associated with aging, this study shows it doesn’t have to be! So, put on your walking shoes and head outside. (Or maybe the mall until it stops raining – you choose!)

Smoking Might Be Damaging Your Hearing

According to the Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology, quitting or reducing smoking and avoiding passive exposure to tobacco smoke may also prevent hearing loss. The study shows that passive exposure to tobacco smoke compared to non-smokers was associated with 28% elevated risk of hearing loss. The study also notes that their data included not only an association with smoking and hearing loss but also with cardiovascular disease, giving us multiple reasons to quit the habit.

An unexpected finding in this particular study is that ex-smokers have a slightly reduced risk of hearing loss than non-smokers. Let me say that one more time… ex-smokers have a slightly reduced risk of hearing loss than non-smokers! The study suggests that this reduced risk is due to ex-smokers adopting a healthier lifestyle than non-smokers, one that affected other comorbidities that cause hearing loss (e.g., hypertension, diabetes). If reducing or quitting smoking is one of your resolutions this year, keep up the good work! Your hard work will pay off in more ways than one.

Protect The Hearing You Have

Many of us own a pair of sunglasses. Sometimes, we carry them on us or keep them in our vehicles to protect our eyes against the damaging rays of the sun, but how many of you carry hearing protection with you? Do you have a designated spot for hearing protection in your vehicle? I always have hearing protection with me in the car, my purse, or backpack. My children always used to laugh and scoff at me when I would hand them a pair at different events we would attend. My daughter is away at college now and she said to me the other day “Mom, my whole childhood I never really used the ones you gave me all the time, but in college now they are the most useful thing I have with me.” So, persistence does pay off. Many of my patients tell me that they have gone to concerts so loud that they wish they had brought hearing protection with them. I want this year to be the year that people start to take their hearing health as seriously as their vision. When used correctly, disposable hearing protection is a great way to decrease exposure to noise and reduce the risk of hearing loss. As an audiologist, I can order you a custom pair of hearing protection devices that are durable and last for years. We also have a great selection of new cases for the hearing protection you already have.  Just let us know if you are interested in learning more! This year, do yourself a favor and designate a spot for your hearing protection in your purse or vehicle.

Healthy Habits = Lower Risk of Hearing Loss

This latest research provides insight into what may be damaging your hearing today. Luckily, the research also provides possible strategies for prevention. While many of us are fixated on the stigmas associated with hearing loss and believe that hearing loss just happens naturally as you age, more and more research is emerging that suggests otherwise. As I mentioned before, cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia have been linked to an increased risk of hearing loss. While I always recommend healthy hearing habits such as avoiding loud sounds and using hearing protection, these recent studies show I can also recommend healthy lifestyle habits, such as walking at least two hours per week, reducing one’s exposure to cigarette smoke, and carrying hearing protection with you. We want to provide care to all of you, not just your ears.

No matter what your goals are for the new year, plan to incorporate a healthier mindset. By carrying hearing protection with you, reducing your exposure to cigarette smoke, and/or walking with a loved one, you can greatly reduce your risk of hearing loss now and in the future. Now head out for that walk!

Until next time,

Dawes, P., Cruickshanks, K., Moore, D., Edmondson-Jones, M., McCormack, A., Fortnum, H. and Munro,
K. (2014). Cigarette Smoking, Passive Smoking, Alcohol Consumption, and Hearing Loss. Journal of the
Association for Research in Otolaryngology, 15(4), pp.663-674.
Curhan, S., Eavey, R., Wang, M., Stampfer, M. and Curhan, G. (2013). Body Mass Index, Waist
Circumference, Physical Activity, and Risk of Hearing Loss in Women. The American Journal of Medicine,
126(12), pp.1142.e1-1142.e8.