There were two factors that made me more aware of my hearing.
Warning Number One
One day, I was watching a program that discussed how the ear worked and how they age. They described how the cochlea contains thousands of hairs to sense different sounds. These hairs are similar to toothbrush bristles where they wear down with use and time. So, the more sound that brushes across them, the more they frail. The unfortunate part is that these bristles don’t regenerate or repair themselves. The sensory hairs that you’re born with are the same ones that stay with you for a lifetime. That’s why your hearing gets worse as you age.
Warning Number Two
The other factor that caused me to be more aware of my hearing was watching an interview with William Shatner. He told the story of how he was filming an episode of Star Trek and there was to be a large explosion on set. Assistants walked around handing out ear plugs advising everyone to wear them. Shatner, being a huge star, thought he was above wearing any ear protection. The explosion went off and he’s had ringing in his ear ever since. As much as he wanted the ringing to go away, it never did. It became so bad that he seriously considered suicide. The condition where there’s constant ringing in the ear is called tinnitus. I thought if this damage occurs with extremely loud noises, something similar could happen on a smaller scale with smaller sounds.
Simple Steps to Avoid Hearing Loss
There are a few systems that I use to avoid damage on my ear.
Living in the city, I’m constantly bombarded with loud sounds. Whether it’s an emergency vehicle passing by with the sirens blaring, or an EL car passing overhead, there’s always sources for piercing sounds. If this happens, I simple cover my ear using my fingers until the sound has passed. I know this sounds simple, but daily noises can add up over time. I also know this may look like an over-reaction to others as I’m walking by, but I would rather save my hearing than worrying about how I look to onlookers who I will never see again. It’s also better than wearing a hearing device in the later years of my life. Even if I know the sound is not overly painful or will only last a few seconds, I make sure to cover up.
Turn It Down
Another habit I use to avoid overuse in my hearing is television volume. Growing up, I was always shocked by the level of volume on my parent’s TV. I thought it was bad then, but it’s even worse now. I never want to get to this point. I know I’ll lose my hearing slowly, but I want to slow down the process as much as possible. To do this, I will simply turn the volume down to the lowest level possible. My wife has even walked in the room and asked me how I can hear the TV. I know some action movies need a little more sound to feel the full effect, but I still try not to over-do it. The same can be said when using earphones. I rarely if ever use them. But if I do, I always try to keep them on the lowest level necessary. It’s so easy to acclimate to the level of sound. If this is the case, try starting on the lowest level so your ear adjusts to a very low setting. You can always turn it up slightly if more is needed.
The next time you hear loud sounds, you may think you can handle the loud pain by ignoring it. But just like a toothbrush, those bristles will slowly wear away until they’re unusable. To avoid this, start new habits so that those bristles last a lifetime.