Preserve Your Hearing, Preserve Your Health
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Preserve Your Hearing, Preserve Your Health

Having trouble hearing? You’re not alone. A startling 48+ million adults in the U.S. are living with hearing loss. Perhaps more concerning is the fact that most of those individuals have not taken any action to address the issue.

While many people think of hearing loss as simply a nuisance, research shows that it may have a significant impact on your overall health, physical safety, and quality of life.

A recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Heath found that older adults with severe hearing loss were more likely to have dementia. Hearing loss has also been linked to an increased risk of developing depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline, as well as a decreased awareness of your surroundings.

Although not all types of hearing loss are preventable, there are steps you can take to lower your risk of developing hearing loss. The time to start is NOW and here’s how:

Avoid excessively loud and noisy environments: Inside your ear, there are tiny hair cells that allow you to hear. Repeated exposure to loud noise may permanently damage these hair cells, leading to hearing loss. A good rule of thumb is if you’re in an environment where you need to raise your voice to be heard, you should consider wearing hearing protection.

Use hearing protection: In any situation where loud noises may occur, wear hearing protection in the form of ear plugs or protective headphones. Situations where hearing protection is recommended may include concerts, fireworks displays, movie theaters, sporting events, factories, places where guns may be used, or while using power equipment—including lawn mowers.

Limit earbud/earphone use and volume: When listening to music or movies using earphones or ear buds, keep the volume in check. Doctors recommend a 60-60 rule to minimize the risk of hearing damage. The first 60 refers to setting the volume at no more than 60% of the device’s maximum volume. The second 60 refers to limiting the amount of time spent with earbuds in your ears to a maximum of 60 minutes.

It's never too early—or too late—to begin wearing hearing protection around loud noises or to teach your children habits that will preserve their hearing. If you have young children, provide them with hearing protection and remind them of the importance of maintaining safety in loud environments.

If you have concerns about your hearing, contact your doctor to schedule a hearing evaluation with a certified audiologist who can assess and treat hearing loss.

If you’re concerned about someone else’s hearing, keep this fact from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in mind: Americans are much more likely to seek treatment if a loved one encouraged them to do so—roughly 6 in 10 said they would likely seek help if either their spouse/partner (59%) or child (61%) asked them to.


Kate O’Neill, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist at SVMC Outpatient Rehabilitation in Bennington, Wilmington, and Manchester Center. These practices are part of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, VT.


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