In addition to colder temperatures, the wintertime carries along risks to your ears and hearing health. Here are some things to consider this season.
Snow machines and winter gear
Any machines or tools, particularly ones that are used for outdoor maintenance, can damage your hearing. The whir from your snow blower can surpass 100 decibels, which can cause noise-induced hearing loss. You should wear a pair of foam earplugs. These can conveniently be purchased from a drug store. There is also the option of wearing noise reduction safety ear muffs, or headphones that completely cover your ears. These can keep your ears warm, while also protecting your ears from dangerous levels of noise.
In order to avoid potential moisture build up in your hearing aids, you might want to remove the devices and keep them in a safe spot, or occasionally wipe them down. Your head will most likely be covered in earmuffs or a hat, and the sweat that builds up in your ear canals could cause problems for these devices.
A good solution to reduce moisture build up is to place your hearing aids in a dry-aid kit overnight. Remove the disposable batteries (rechargeable batteries may not need to be removed, talk to your hearing instrument specialist to verify this). Hearing aid sweatbands are spandex covers that are designed to keep moisture from getting to your hearing aids. You can also get water-resistant hearing aids.
Dangerous decibel levels at indoor sports arenas
Many people enjoy going to arenas to watch basketball or hockey during the wintertime. It’s important to know that decibels, particularly at indoor arenas, can - and usually do - exceed safe noise levels. A safe noise level is 70 decibels. Some arenas can reach up to 120 decibels!
You may not initially notice any damage to your hearing because hearing loss occurs gradually over time. Always be prepared and bring a small pair of foam earplugs wherever you go. Make sure the earplugs are properly fitted for maximum protection. They can help preserve your hearing in the long run.
Look out for slippery surfaces when walking
According to a Johns Hopkins study from 2014, those who have hearing loss are three times more likely to fall than those who do not have hearing loss. You are at an even higher risk of falling during the winter due to ice and snow. If you have issues with your balance because of your hearing loss, or Meniere’s disease, look out for ice patches that may be hidden, objects that are covered in snow or slippery steps that could cause you to fall.
Take care if you get a cold or flu
If you believe that you may have an ear infection, go see a doctor.
In the winter season, your ears are normally colder. That means you have less circulation to provide your ears with a healthy supply of blood. Bacteria and virus infections are more prevalent during the colder season. This combination raises the risk of otitis media.
Otitis media is an ear infection that leads to severe swelling and inflammation to the middle ear. This swelling and infection could build up behind the eardrum and obstruct the Eustachian tube. Ear infections can be treated with antibiotics, but you may suffer from temporary hearing loss if the fluid does not clear out right away. If you believe that you may have an ear infection, go see a doctor immediately.
Keep your ears warm and dry if you are going to be outside in a cold environment. This may lower the possibility of ear infections. It’s also important to have a healthy diet and to exercise regularly for good blood circulation, particularly in the wintertime when everyone has a high risk of infection.
Keep your ears warm and dry when you are skiing or riding a snowmobile
Wearing earmuffs, hats, scarves, and/or sweatbands are a great way to refrain from overexposure to extreme cold and wet conditions, which may cause exostosis, or “surfer’s ear”. This is a rare condition that typically occurs when someone is in or near cold water. Exostosis happens when you are exposed to cold temperatures and knobs of bone grow on the bone that surrounds your ear canal. The ear canal could get obstructed, increasing the risk of infection due to the fluid that gets trapped. This condition can be corrected with surgery, but it’s best to keep your ears covered, warm and dry to lower any risks.
If you, or a loved one, suffer from hearing loss or need advanced hearing aid care maintenance, please contact us at Pure Sound Hearing Aids for a consultation.