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May Is Better Hearing Month – Spring Into It With Less Noise, More Joy!

Ahhh, spring! As power tools whir, ball games bloom, and concerts sprout, are your ears protected from the louder sounds of the season?

Some noises pack a bigger punch than your ears should take, so for Better Hearing Month this May, we’re sharing three quick tips to keep harmful volumes at bay.


TURN DOWN THE SOUND

Planning a hearty run in the fresh air with favorite tunes in your ears? It’s tempting to crank up the beats, but MP3 players can reach an ear-splitting 105 decibels. Better bet: Enjoy the sounds but turn them down to 50 percent maximum volume or lower.

GUARD YOUR EARS

Cutting that spring grass can feel so satisfying, but the noise of a gas mower can blow past the danger threshold of 85 decibels. Hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs help soften loud sounds and can be customized to your ears, so keep them on hand when using power equipment.

LIMIT YOUR EXPOSURE

Spring concerts, sports, and festivals abound, so help keep your hearing sound by wearing hearing protection and taking breaks from the festivities. Permanent hearing loss can result even from a single exposure to loud noise, making it important to give your ears a helpful rest from excess volumes.


Did you know?

  • An estimated one-third of hearing loss among children and adults worldwide is connected to noise exposure.
  • Excess noise can destroy the inner ear’s tiny, irreplaceable hair cells, which are crucial to healthy hearing.
  • Loud sounds can lead to tinnitus, a common and potentially debilitating problem of buzzing, humming, or ringing in the ears.
  • Quality hearing protection can curb noise intensity while letting music and other audio sound just as good.

As the season showers you with sound, make this the month to start protecting your hearing. Contact our caring team today to learn more about custom hearing protection for the whole family.

A Feast for the Ears: Supporting Your Hearing Health Through Food

March is National Nutrition Month, and that makes this an especially great time to talk about hearing wellness and nutrition. Never thought about food in relation to your ears? You’re not alone. But considering food is a critical source of elements crucial to healthy skin, muscles, organs, and more, it’s no wonder that nutrition and hearing are connected.

Take children and hearing loss, for instance. Did you know that a lack of adequate nutrition early in life could mean problems with hearing later on? A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in February 2018, for example, found that young adults who experienced poor nutrition in their preschool years had double the risk of hearing loss versus their better-nourished counterparts.

Though the research focused on a population with ongoing malnutrition issues and limited health care access, the study adds to the body of research linking nourishment — broccoli, anyone? — and hearing health.

Speaking of broccoli: Selected vitamins and minerals in your food can contribute to protecting your hearing wellness, according to HealthyHearing.com, so feast your eyes — and ears — on these examples to jump-start your healthy-hearing nutrition:
 

Clams, Cod, and Rockfish

These delights from the sea not only please a discerning palate but can provide potassium, an important mineral for regulating blood and tissue fluid levels — including in the inner ear, which plays an important role in hearing and balance.
 

Okra, Asparagus, and Spinach

Choices abound when it comes to sources of folate, which studies have linked to healthy outcomes such as decreased risk of hearing impairment among older men. Whether you’re into dark green veggies, broccoli, avocado, escarole, or edamame, you can find folate-rich foods to match your tastes.
 

Leafy Greens, Whole Grains, and — Hey — Dark Chocolate!

Yep, dark chocolate’s on our list of foods containing magnesium, which — combined with vitamins A, C, and E — can help thwart noise-induced hearing loss. Other magnesium sources include pumpkin seeds, kidney beans, chicken breast, and more.
 

Lentils, Split Peas, and Navy Beans

Serve them mashed, whole, in a soup, or in a salad bowl — whatever your delight! Lentils — along with other legumes and foods such as beef, oysters, and dark-meat chicken — offer zinc, which supports the immune system and may help fight tinnitus or ringing in the ears.
 
Healthy eating is important year-round, so keep these helpful tips in mind for National Nutrition Month and beyond. Want to learn more about hearing wellness and nutrition? Contact us! We’re happy to answer your questions.

How Prevalent Really is Hearing Loss Among Americans and Canadians?

How many people in your life have hearing difficulties? One person? Two people? A handful? No one? The actual number is quite possibly more than you think, because hearing loss — the inability or reduced ability to perceive sounds that enter the ear — is much more common than many realize.

In the United States and Canada together, for example, millions of people live with hearing loss. Numbers may vary per organization, government agency, or study, but:

In both countries, hearing loss also represents one of the top chronic physical conditions — even, in the case of the United States, ahead of diabetes or cancer. It’s a growing concern affecting children and adults, including approximately 34 million youth worldwide. In fact, it’s one of the most common birth defects in Canada and possibly the most common one in the U.S.
 

The good news?

Most hearing loss can be effectively managed with solutions such as hearing aids, helping you stay connected to the people, places, and experiences that matter most.
 

The bad news?

Only a fraction of those who could benefit from hearing help actually seek or receive it, making hearing loss an undertreated issue.
 
Even worse, hearing loss not only impacts communication but can go hand in hand with other problems such as social isolation, depression, diabetes, dementia, heart disease, and risk of falls.


FEBRUARY IS HEART MONTH

Did you know? Like hearing loss, cardiovascular disease — including heart disease and stroke — is a global public-health challenge. It’s the No. 1 killer worldwide, with nearly 18 million deaths annually per World Health Organization estimates, and is linked to hearing loss.

Precisely how cardiovascular disease and hearing loss are connected isn’t yet conclusive in all cases, but researchers have found, for example, that those with heart disease are 54 percent more likely to experience a hearing loss — even more so if they’ve suffered a heart attack.

Some risk factors such as age, gender, and family history can’t be helped, but healthy choices such as the following can make a difference in helping prevent either condition:

  • Avoiding tobacco
  • Following a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting regular hearing and overall checkups

Take it to heart, and spread the word!

Hearing Aids: 5 Fun Facts on What These Powerful Devices Can Do

Some individuals might not realize how far technology has come to make communication easier than ever. We’ll provide you with some facts about hearing aids.

Did you know? Fewer than one out of three adults 70 and older who could benefit from hearing aids actually uses them, per the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, and the rate plunges to just 16 percent among those 20 to 69.

The reasons for these stark statistics may vary, but what’s clear is that disabling hearing loss — a serious public health issue affecting approximately 466 million people worldwide — is undertreated on a global scale.

Some individuals who need hearing help might not realize how far technology has advanced to make communication easier and more empowering than ever, even in some of the most challenging listening situations.

Check out these five fun facts you may not have known about hearing devices:

  1. Like Elephants, They “Remember”

    Want the same great listening experience at your favorite — but noisy — food spot every time you get together with family and friends? Options vary across different product lines, but some AGX® Hearing devices offer a “restaurant” setting that cuts background noise, or you can create your own geotagged “memory” with sound settings tailored to specific locations for a consistent experience.

  2. Built-In Mics Put You in Control

    When a room or other venue contains competing sounds, you need a way to focus on the audio you actually want to hear. You can use your AGX hearing aid’s directionality function to focus the device’s microphones on the conversation in front of you, for example, versus the noise or other sounds behind you.

  3. They Play Well With Other Devices

    Hearing impairment can make it difficult to track who’s saying what in group discussions — for instance, a brainstorming session at work. A wireless Bluetooth® microphone, set in a central spot during the conversation, can send speech directly to your hearing aid! During more personal gatherings, your conversation companions can take turns placing the mic on their lapel while speaking.

  4. You Can Stream Like a Champ

    Speaking of playing well with other devices: Many hearing aids today let you transmit audio from your television, stereo, or smartphone to your hearing tech — whether streaming directly or with the help of a wireless accessory called a “streamer” that clips to your collar. Laugh along with your favorite TV comedy series, enjoy the latest tunes, or video chat on your smartphone with clarity and confidence.

  5. They Make Good Fitness Buddies

    Some cutting-edge hearing aids not only offer great sound, speech clarity in noise, and audio streaming from your smartphone but also track brain and body health using artificial intelligence. With the AGXs liv, for example, you control your programs, settings, and streaming while the Thrive™ Hearing app records your health data and provides three wellness scores, helping you track your fitness goals.

 


Want a closer look at what today’s modern technology can do for your hearing health and enjoyment? Contact us to schedule your FREE demonstration today! Our caring team can’t wait to show you how far hearing aids have come.
 

How Hearing Aids Work

If you or someone you know has hearing technology, you understand how life-changing it can be, leading to even stronger connections to loved ones and a renewed vigor for life. But have you ever stopped to wonder just how those amazing little life-changers work?

It might surprise you to know that the basics haven’t changed over the last several hundred years. Let’s start with the ear trumpet.

The Ear Trumpet

All things considered, the ear trumpet was a decent alternative to hearing loss. How did it work? It:

  • Collected sound waves
  • Amplified the sound waves by making them more orderly and concentrated
  • Funneled the amplified sound waves into your ear canal

After that, the amplified sound waves traveled to the eardrum and beyond, where hearing happened. How does that compare to today’s hearing aids?

The Modern Hearing Aid

Today’s hearing aids work on the same principles. Just like the ear trumpet, today’s hearing aid:

  • Collects sound waves
  • Amplifies the sound waves
  • Funnels the amplified sound into your ear canal

After that, the amplified sound waves travel to your eardrum and beyond, where hearing happens.
 

There are two major differences, however, between the ear trumpet and today’s hearing aids: digital technology and the expertise of an experienced provider. Let’s take a look.

  • Directional microphones

    Many modern hearing aids have directional microphones, which means they determine — in the moment — which sounds belong to your conversation partner and focus on those sounds, rather than all the other background noise.

  • Digital processor

    Many hearing devices come with a digital chip that optimizes the sound quality by, for example, reducing background noise, canceling feedback, and reducing the noise caused by wind blowing across your hearing device.

  • Multichannel amplifier

    Today’s amplifiers can analyze incoming sound based on your specific hearing needs and then amplify (or reduce) the volume accordingly. For example, it can boost the volume of your child’s voice while leaving the sound of your neighbor’s truck engine as is. In many ways, it’s like the equalizer channels on a stereo, only more sophisticated!

  • Binaural processing

    This is a fancy way to say your hearing aids communicate with each other. This keeps them working in sync, and it means you can stream audio from one hearing aid to the other (for example, you can hear a phone call from your smartphone in both ears at the same time).

  • Remote, discreet adjustments

    Many hearing devices today can pair with an app on your smartphone. Depending on the make and model of hearing tech, you can use the app to control volume and settings, set program preferences for favorite locations, and even stream audio from your smartphone directly to your hearing devices.

  • Experienced provider

    At every step in your better-hearing journey, your provider takes into account your hearing lifestyle. Do you go to concerts? Or do you spend a lot of time in the library? Each lifestyle requires a specific technology with deft, nuanced programming considerations. Your provider ensures everything is in order and meets your ever-evolving hearing needs.


Same Ol’ Story

As you can see, the more hearing care stays the same, the more it changes. No matter the method we use at each step, tech will only get more sophisticated as the years go by. What might hearing technology look like in the year 2060?

Online Hearing Tests: Can They Help?

Several online or app-based home hearing tests have been developed. Researchers have been studying how well work compared to a professional hearing test.

From blood-pressure kiosks in retail stores and vision exams online to home kits that test for HIV, blood-sugar levels, colon cancer, and more, the do-it-yourself approach to health screening continues to expand as the demand for greater convenience and consumer empowerment grows. Even online hearing tests are a part of the DIY mix, but do they work? What role can they play in ensuring your optimal hearing health?

Let’s take a closer look, including the pros, the cons, and the bottom line for keeping your hearing in top shape.

Some Pros

Imagine being able to accomplish anything and everything from the comfort of your own home. Sounds pretty convenient, right? We’re not quite there on a global scale, but quality online hearing tests could help you take a first step toward better hearing health without even leaving the house.

People take an average seven years to make a provider appointment after suspecting they may have a hearing loss, so imagine how much sooner they might seek professional help if they could make that first move — a hearing test — at home. It’s simple, free, discreet, relatively quick, and can potentially estimate your current hearing ability.

Several online or app-based home hearing tests have been developed, and researchers have been studying how well they compare to similar tests given in a hearing-care professional’s sound booth. Results have varied, depending on factors such as the specific DIY platform tested.

Some Cons

Even the most reliable online hearing test — one that potentially could determine your basic hearing threshold and indicate your degree of hearing loss — can be misinterpreted without the expertise to understand what the findings mean or how and why you have the potential impairment.

For example, a hearing loss could be caused by something as simple as a foreign object in your ear canal, or it could be a sign of issues in the areas of your brain that process sound. In either case, you may be unaware of the underlying problem, but heading to a big-box retailer to buy hearing aids won’t solve it.

Online testing also doesn’t provide the comprehensive evaluation you need for a more complete look at your hearing wellness:

  • Some online hearing screenings may use the pure-tone air-conduction threshold test, for instance, in which each ear is played a series of sounds through earphones, and you indicate whether you can hear each respective tone. The test measures the quietest sound you can reliably hear at least 50 percent of the time — the threshold. This important data, however, only scratches the surface. It doesn’t explain how well you hear speech, how well you understand it, or whether the hearing loss is due to an injury in your ear.
  • In addition to a battery of important tests that measure elements such as pure-tone air and bone conduction, speech and word recognition, tympanometry and acoustic reflexes, comfortable listening levels, the threshold of discomfort, and more, professional examinations include an inspection of your ears and an intake of your medical and hearing-health history.

The Bottom Line

A reliable home hearing test can serve as an important wake-up call in your hearing health. If you’re on the fence about hearing care, it’s an easy way to find out whether you potentially have hearing loss, which is best addressed by a trained, licensed professional.

Keep in mind, however, that a home hearing test shows you a symptom — it doesn’t pinpoint the underlying problem or provide solutions for your unique needs. An audiologic evaluation gathers nuanced data about not only your auditory system but ways to improve your specific hearing difficulties.


Your auditory system is complex, and so is the combination of people and environments that creates your unique listening lifestyle. If you’re noticing difficulty communicating in your everyday activities or took an online test that indicated potential hearing loss, don’t wait. Contact our caring team for a comprehensive evaluation today.

Self-Fitting Hearing Aids: Reasons to Consult a Hearing Care Professional

Self-Fitting Hearing Aids: Key Reasons to Consult a Hearing Care Professional Instead

Self-Fitting Hearing Aids are new to the market, but they still have a ways to go in matching the effectiveness of clinician-fitted hearing devices.

Have you heard of self-fitting hearing aids (SFHAs)? Can they help if you have a hearing loss? What exactly are they, and how do they differ from traditional hearing devices fitted by a hearing care expert? What’s the best action to take if you need hearing help?

With hearing loss posing a serious public-health challenge worldwide — it’s a chronic problem affecting millions of women, men, and children — technology continues evolving to improve sound clarity, expand compatibility with other smart devices, and increase accessibility to a wider reach of people.

So where do self-fitting hearing aids fit into the equation of better-hearing options? Let’s take a look.

What Are Self-Fitting Hearing Aids?

Definitions of SFHAs can vary slightly across experts. In the simplest terms, they’re sound-amplifying devices designed to let the user measure their own hearing loss, appropriately install the devices in their ears, and program them for optimal hearing in various listening environments without the prescription or assistance of an audiologist, medical doctor, or other specially trained hearing expert.

Can These Self-Fitting Devices Help Me?

As a relatively newer product category, self-fitting hearing aids may ultimately prove a welcome addition to the range of treatment options. They still have a ways to go, however, in matching the effectiveness and satisfaction of clinician-fitted hearing devices.

One recent study, “Outcomes With a Self-Fitting Hearing Aid,” compared user-driven and provider-driven fittings of a single self-fitting product. Researchers uncovered no significant hearing-aid-performance differences between the two groups but saw that cognition plays a big role. Those “with poorer cognitive function consistently exhibited more difficulty in handling the” self-fitting devices, wrote the study’s authors.

It’s important to note that self-fitting hearing aids require access to, familiarity with, and the ability to understand how to operate and adjust the devices, which could prove challenging for some patients struggling with manual dexterity, visual acuity, cognitive issues, or inability to navigate or access computers or apps. Seeking professional assistance could make all the difference in user satisfaction.

Passage of the federal Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 will eventually bring even more self-treating options to the market, but when it comes to addressing the full spectrum of hearing loss and integrating environmental variables such as background noise, FDA-approved, provider-fit hearing aids are the recommended approach.

What Should I Do if I’m Having Hearing Difficulty?

Did you know? An estimated 466 million children and adults around the globe live with disabling hearing loss, per the World Health Organization, but the good news is that nearly all hearing impairment can be effectively managed to keep you communicating your best.

An important first step is recognizing some of the potential signs and symptoms of hearing loss:

  • The perception that everyone seems to be mumbling
  • Trouble understanding speech in noisy environments
  • Frequent need to turn up the TV or have words repeated
  • Tinnitus — a buzzing, ringing, clicking, or humming in the ears
  • Difficulty conversing on the phone or understanding women’s and children’s voices

Untreated hearing loss has been linked to numerous other health complications such as cognitive decline, diabetes, depression, hypertension, social withdrawal, and more, making early treatment important to improving quality of life.


If you are experiencing listening problems or it’s been a while since your last hearing test, don’t wait. Schedule an evaluation with our expert team today. We’re here to help!

Are Portable Music Players Putting Your Ears at Risk?

Turn the Music Up, Dude — But Not Past 85 Decibels

You probably use your tablet or smartphone often to stream music, TV shows, or movies. In fact, many websites these days auto-play videos regardless of whether you want them to.

Smartphones, tablets, and other types of portable music players (PMPs) are now commonplace, as are earbuds and headphones. But if your PMP is turned up too loud while wearing earbuds or headphones, you can damage your hearing quickly. Let’s look at why.

NIHL

This isn’t some new sports league — NIHL stands for noise-induced hearing loss, and it’s the second-largest cause of hearing loss worldwide.

You’re able to hear because of hair cells in your inner ear. These cells convert sound signals to electrical signals and send them to your brain, where they’re interpreted as sounds. But loud sounds can actually damage or destroy your hair cells.

Every time a hair cell gets damaged, you lose a little bit of your ability to hear, and that damage can’t be repaired. The result is NIHL.

How Headphones Hurt Your Hearing

Navigating noise is all about the decibels (a measure of sound pressure). You’re safe if the sound in question stays below 85 decibels (dB); above that, you’re in the action zone — protect your ears or risk hearing damage.

For comparison:

  • A clothes dryer = 60 dB
    No need for hearing protection
  • A gas lawn mower = 91 dB
    Exposure can damage hearing in 2 hours
  • A tractor =100 dB
    Exposure can damage hearing in 15 minutes
  • A chain saw = 112 dB
    Exposure can damage hearing in less than 1 minute

Some PMPs can generate 112 dB — in other words, if you like to listen to your PMP at full volume, you’re likely pumping a chain saw’s worth of noise at your ears from centimeters away.

Why Protecting Your Hearing Matters

Hearing loss is connected to overall health in surprising ways. It’s been linked to depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cognitive decline, dementia, and other health concerns.

But it’s not just a concern for later in life: One study found that any degree of hearing loss early in life increases a child’s risk for language and learning problems.

Considering that one study of PMP use in 9-to 11-year-olds reported that 9 in 10 children and teens use some form of audio-streaming device for education or recreation, PMPs pose a considerable hearing health risk at all ages.

Indeed, that same study found that 14 percent of the children had measurable hearing loss. In addition, if a child listened to their PMP only once or twice a week, it doubled their chances of hearing loss compared to children who didn’t use a PMP.

What You Can Do

  • Enforce the 60/60 rule. Don’t turn the volume of your PMPs up past 60 percent of full volume, and turn the device off completely after listening for 60 minutes so your ears can have a break.
  • Use headphones instead of earbuds. With earbuds, you pick up background noise, which often leads to turning up the volume on the PMP to hear the audio better. Headphones that surround the ear keep the background noise to a minimum, allowing you to leave the volume at or below 60 percent. Even better, invest in noise-canceling headphones.
  • If you must use earbuds, make them in-ear earbuds. With these earbuds, the earpiece sits inside the ear canal, rather than just outside it. The sleeve around the speaker blocks out background noise and keeps your audio from escaping the ear canal.
  • Use the sound limiter built into the PMP. Many devices allow you to limit how loud the volume goes, or the device has a built-in alert telling you you’re risking hearing damage by pushing the volume higher.
  • For kids, get volume-limiting headphones. Though there are many child-friendly options for headphones that will keep the volume from going over 85, it’s best to read up on whichever pair you choose to buy. Research by Wirecutter found that, of more than 30 brands tested, almost half were not effective at keeping the volume below 85 dB.

Your Eye and Ear Health Have More in Common Than You Think!

Did you know your eye and ear health are related? We give you 4 reasons to make regular checkups for hearing & vision a regular part of your health routine.

4 Reasons to Keep Your Hearing and Vision in Check

We all know that eyes and ears play a huge role in helping people — and animals, too! — experience life’s adventures. Seeing or hearing the people, places, and moments that matter can make for wonderful, lasting memories.

But did you know that seeing and hearing have more in common than just their rock-star status? Here are four reasons to make regular checkups for hearing and vision an important part of your overall health and wellness:

  • Hearing actually enhances the sense of sight, according to a UCLA study, with both working as a team to help you perceive and participate in the world around you. In the study, which ran participants through a series of trials to correctly identify the direction in which a display of dots were moving, hearing the direction in which the dots were collectively traveling enhanced participants’ ability to see the direction of the movement.
  • Visually impaired older adults are more likely to also experience hearing loss, per a study published in the medical journal JAMA Ophthalmology. Researchers investigating links between age-related vision and hearing problems found that even after considering age, the two conditions are somehow linked and “have a cumulative effect on function and well-being, significantly affecting both physical and mental domains.”
  • Vision and hearing loss go hand in hand with cognitive decline, per research showing that either condition is somehow connected to reduced brain functioning over time. One study, according to an online news article, found that participants with the most profound vision impairment had the lowest average scores on cognition tests. And hearing-impaired seniors on average may experience significantly reduced cognitive function at least three years before their normal-hearing counterparts.
  • Healthy eyes and ears — along with your joints, muscles, and brain — help keep you steady on your feet, reducing your risk of falling. It’s probably pretty obvious how seeing your best helps you stay upright, but many people may not realize that the inner ear also plays an important role in maintaining balance. Conversely, untreated hearing loss could nearly triple your risk of a fall, per a Johns Hopkins study.
Hearing and vision work together to help you live your best, so remember to keep them both in top shape. Start with a hearing checkup by contacting us today!

How Noise Pollution Affects Your Health & How to Protect Yourself

Noise is just noise, right? You learn to tune it out and, unless it’s really loud, you don’t worry about it. You definitely wouldn’t worry about its effects on your heart — would you?

As far back as 1972, awareness of the adverse health effects of noise pollution was so strong that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency passed the Noise Control Act to establish “a national policy to promote an environment for all Americans free from noise that jeopardizes their health and welfare.” This naturally leads to the question, “How bad can noise pollution really be?”

What Is Noise Pollution?

Noise pollution isn’t just rush-hour traffic, living near an airport, or working near a long-standing construction site. To truly understand noise pollution, let’s try a little experiment, either in real life or in your imagination:

Go to your favorite spot in nature. Keep your headphones packed away (or better yet, leave them at home). Now turn off your smartphone. Just be there, and note what you hear. Water? Bugs? Maybe your dog sniffing something “interesting”?

Odds are, the silence is almost overwhelming. You’re exposed daily to even more noise than you realize. Appliances, computers, traffic, the constant hum of the furnace or air conditioner — that’s just the environmental component. Use of headphones for video games and music as well as the din of socializing in public spaces contribute, too; so much so, in fact, that researchers consider them a separate category: social noise.

So what is noise pollution? It’s any sound that reduces your quality of life. That simple definition, however, has more packed into it than you might suspect.

How Does Noise Pollution Affect My Health?

Hearing loss

The most obvious effect is noise-induced hearing loss. Any noise above 85 decibels (dB; a measurement of sound intensity) can damage hearing. Everyday life is full of noise above 85 dB: a gas lawn mower (91 dB), hair dryer (94 dB), headphones turned too loud (100 dB), and a plane takeoff (120 dB) are just a few commonplace noise sources that can damage your hearing. At 85 dB, hearing damage occurs after about 8 hours of exposure, but at 91 dB — only a 6-dB increase — damage occurs after about 2 hours.

Reduced brainpower

It is well established that environmental noise pollution reduces learning outcomes and cognitive performance in children. The more consistently a classroom is exposed to noise from aircraft, road traffic, or trains, the poorer the children’s reading ability, memory, and standardized-testing performance compared to children not exposed to noise at school.

Cardiovascular problems

Noise pollution has long been linked to cardiovascular disease, and a recent article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology offers a suggestion as to why: Noise triggers a stress reaction that includes the fight-or-flight response of the nervous system and an increase in stress hormones such as cortisol. Over time, this repeated flooding of the system with stress hormones can damage the cardiovascular system.

Sleep problems

Other than hearing damage, it’s been established that sleep disturbance is the most harmful effect of environmental noise pollution. Short-term effects of poor sleep are mood changes, daytime sleepiness, and decreased cognitive abilities. One significant long-term effect of poor sleep is cardiovascular disease.

Psychological stress
A study in the Journal of Sound and Vibration found that those in homes exposed to road traffic on one side — even at a maximum of 68 dB, about the noise level of average TV audio — experienced annoyance and a reduction in daytime relaxation and psychological well-being. But those ill effects were reduced significantly if residents moved to the side of the home not exposed to the road-traffic noise.

How Can I Protect Myself?

Hearing protection

Whether you choose inexpensive, all-purpose, drugstore disposables or custom-molded earplugs, you can find hearing protection that fits your budget or needs. Usually there is a noise-reduction ratio (NRR) number associated; the higher the number, the better the softening of sound should be. Here are some common situations for which you can find over-the-counter or custom hearing protection:

  • Sleeping
  • Shooting (range or hunting)
  • Listening to live music
  • Playing music
  • Flying
  • Kids’ safety (use earmuffs, as they are safer and easier for kids to use)

Another form of hearing protection? Simply turn down the TV or music, whether you’re listening with headphones or speakers. A general rule is to listen to your music device for no more than 60 minutes at 60 percent volume.

Personal technology solutions

Masking. Depending on the source of the noise, this could be ideal. Masking is when one sound is used to draw focus away from other, less pleasant sounds. White noise, classical music, and nature sounds — all at low volume — are just some examples of masking using headphones or speakers. Plus, there are plenty of white noise and nature-sound apps available for your smartphone.

Noise-canceling headphones. Many apps that are labeled as noise-canceling apps are actually masking apps. True noise canceling can only be achieved with a combination of a microphone, circuitry, and a speaker, so true noise canceling is only found in noise-canceling headphones. They identify problematic noise and create a sound that neutralizes the incoming, problematic sound. In essence, it truly cancels sounds. In addition, the headphones are made with more sound-absorbent materials than traditional headphones.

How Can I Reduce the Noise Pollution Around Me?

Sound waves can be absorbed — use it to your advantage! Here are just a few ideas to help you look at your home a little differently. How else could you set up your living space to soundproof it?

Floors. Do you have hard floors? Consider installing carpet — the shaggier the better. For a simpler, more affordable solution, get area rugs to put in rooms that generate a lot of noise — think TV, laundry, and exercise rooms.

Furniture. Is your furniture out in the middle of the room? Push it up against the walls to absorb the sound waves that make it through the wall. The more overstuffed your furniture, the more sound is absorbed. Add accent pillows, drape throws or blankets — anything tasteful that absorbs sound.

Bookcases. Put bookcases against walls that get a lot of noise exposure. The bookcase absorbs sound like a second wall, and the paper from the books absorbs plenty as well.

Curtains. Even thin curtains will absorb sound. Already have curtains on all the windows? Swap them out for heavier ones to add extra absorption on sides of the house that get more outside noise.

Appliances. If possible, close the door when running loads of laundry. Start the dishwasher when you won’t be in the kitchen for the rest of the evening. If larger appliances are in unfinished areas — think laundry in an unfinished basement — hang old blankets, towels, or clothes on the walls to act as sound absorbers.

Contact us today to schedule a hearing-protection consultation!