What is summer? Summer is fun! It’s taking long walks, going on hikes, spending time at BBQs, parks, and local fairs. Maybe summer is catching up with old friends and loved ones. Maybe it’s going outside and watching the world bloom.
There’s so much to look forward to over the next few months. Whatever summer is to you, don’t spend it worrying about your hearing.
Protect Your Aids
Your hearing aids are your lifeline to the sounds of the world. The last thing you want this summer is to lose them or need them repaired or replaced. If you wear hearing aids, chances are they’re one of the most helpful devices in your life. They shouldn’t be a burden.
One thing you want to do is keep them safe from environmental wear and tear. If they’re not in your ears, try to keep them out of direct sunlight (don’t keep them on the dashboard of your car or on a table outside, for example), and limit their time in extreme heat. Wear your aids normally throughout the day, despite the heat or humidity; just be careful where you place them whenever they’re removed.
Keeping your hearing aids dry is also important. Before going swimming, take them out and store them somewhere safe. When applying suntan lotion, make sure none gets onto your device. If you exercise frequently, be sure to wear a headband or wrist sweatbands to help catch or wipe away any water from pooling down into your ears. If you live in a particularly humid area, consider purchasing a hearing aid dehumidifier1 to safely dry your aids at night. With no dehumidifier, be sure to open the battery compartment doors (if you have non-rechargeable aids) before you go to sleep. This will help air out any moisture between the battery and battery contacts, preventing corrosion and possible damage. If you need to dry out any hearing aid in a pinch, you can also make your own dry-and-store compartment device with a plastic bag and a desiccant.
If you’re traveling this summer, be sure to always bring extra of everything (cleaning cloths, batteries, etc.), and make sure you keep all warranty information close by. For any problems, remember that HearingLife has over 600 locations nationwide as well as live support by phone should you need assistance while on the road.
Protect Your Ears
Many summer activities take place outside, where exposure to loud noises on a consistent basis can become a problem. According to the CDC, “Hearing loss can result from a single loud sound (like firecrackers) near your ear. Or, more often, hearing loss can result over time from damage caused by repeated exposures to loud sounds.”2
The CDC website2 breaks down sound level and time. Anything around 80-85 decibels (dB) (such as lawnmowers or power tools) can damage hearing in as little as 2 hours, while fireworks, maybe upwards of 140-150 dB if you’re close enough, can cause hearing loss in a matter of minutes.3 Whether you’re working outside or catching that fireworks show, ear protection is always a smart idea. Keep some disposable earplugs handy, and if you notice any sudden ringing or buzzing that doesn’t go away, you may need to make an appointment with your hearing specialist.
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) can happen to anyone at any age. To help protect yourself, you can download a free decibel reader on your smartphone to measure your immediate sound environment. Anything under 70 dB is unlikely to cause hearing loss, while the possibility with anything over 80-85 dB rises exponentially with time. While at those firework displays this summer, always remember: “the louder the sound, the
shorter the amount of time it takes for NIHL to happen.”4
With summertime fun, comes summertime ear infections. Both swimmer’s ear5 and airplane ear can put a serious damper on your warm-weather plans.
If you spend a lot of time in the pool or ocean, you’re probably familiar with that feeling of water trapped in your ear canal. Your ear may feel “full” or clogged, and sound may be muted. This is known as swimmer’s ear. Given enough time, this water can irritate the walls of your ear and cause possible infection and temporary hearing loss.6 If water is trapped, you’ll want to remove it as quickly as possible. Over-the-counter swimmer’s ear drops can help dry out the moisture, as can movement or tilting your head. But whatever you do, don’t use Q-tips, which could further inflame the skin deep down. Like your hearing aids, you want to keep the inside of your ears protected and dry.
Airplane ear, also called ear barotrauma or barotitis media, is a different story. Caused by out-of-balance air pressure from a flight’s liftoff or descent, airplane ear can manifest as temporary pain. Like swimmer’s ear, you’ll often notice this right away as a feeling of “fullness” deep inside your canal. “Yawning, swallowing, or chewing gum”7 can help, but if it doesn’t, you might need to visit a doctor or specialist before it gets worse. Airplane ear is stress on your eardrum, and it’s not something you want to ignore. It can also cause moderate-to-severe hearing loss.
With spring and summer comes a change of venue. You may find yourself spending a lot more time outdoors, going on walks or talking with friends. If you have hearing difficulties, this is a change - especially after the winter and the lifestyle changes of the past year - that may take some getting used to.
An adjustment period is normal. Give yourself some time to become reacquainted with how sound carries outside and inside (where the windows may be open or the air conditioning on). Try not to get frustrated, as socialization - talking to people while using your hearing aids - can only help in the long run. Think of your ears and brain as muscles that need the exercise. Summer is the perfect time to use your ears.