Elizabeth Azevedo-Flowers is the Caregiver Homes Branch Manager for the Southeast Region in Massachusetts.

In our busy lives, there are many things we try to do be proactive about our health and well-being: we take vitamins, try to eat healthy, and do our best to be active. But I've noticed that we often forget about our hearing health. I never gave it much thought until my dad started showing signs of poor hearing in his 60s. He kept the volume on his TV and favorite country radio station loud. When he would play guitar, I noticed he would raise his amplifier higher than he used to. As his hearing loss progressed, he began asking us to repeat things. He believed his hearing loss was the result of his days building boats in the Quincy shipyard. Because of his experience, I decided to look into preventative measures to protect my own hearing as I age.

October is National Protect Your Hearing month. Did you know that prolonged exposure to sounds above 85 decibels (dB) may cause permanent hearing loss? Normal conversation is measured at a moderate noise level of 50-70 dB; the noise of a motorcycle or lawn mower is 85-90 dB—an obviously dangerous level.

The Primary Causes of Hearing Loss:

  • Noise. Excessive noise or "sound pollution" can cause hearing loss and ringing.
  • Injury. Injuries can occur if there is perforation of the ear drum or large changes in air pressure.
  • Drugs. Certain chemicals and medications can damage your hearing.
  • Disease. Diseases like measles or meningitis have been known to cause hearing loss.

It is important to note that noise-induced hearing loss is usually painless and permanent, but it is preventable. Protecting one's own health not only makes it possible to care for others, but it also can mean the difference between being independent or needing additional support later in life.

Here are some ways to help preserve your hearing: 1. Be aware of your exposure time to sounds over 85 Db. (Compare this to the noise of a motorcycle or lawn mower).
2. Avoid loud sound environments. A good way to measure what is "too loud" is if you have to raise your voice to be heard.
3. If you know you can't avoid a loud environment, do your best to protect your ears or move away from amplifiers.
4. Make an appointment with an otolaryngologist (ENT) orotologist if you notice hearing changes.

My dad's hearing loss was an eye-opener for me. It made me realize how important good hearing is to your quality of life as you age. Hopefully with these tips, caregivers and professionals can take measures to protect and preserve their own hearing sooner rather than later.