Monday, 15 September 2014

Live and Let Hear: Hearing Protection for All

You only get one shot at good hearing. From the day that we're born, we're given a supply of hair cells in our cochlear to last us a lifetime.

Awesome to have, but once they're gone, they're gone.
Even with what little hearing I have (most of my cochlear hair cells are damaged, save for a few), my mom was always very keen on ear protection. I remember her pulling me out of competitive swimming because I was getting way too many ear infections, she wouldn't let me do gymnastics for fear that I'd bang my head, and more.

Now, as a parent, I'm 83982945834 times more conscious that I'm the one responsible for protecting my baby girl's hearing. I really don't want her to go through life with diminished hearing, however small it might be. Helen Keller sums up how I feel about having a hearing loss:

"Blindness separates people from things; deafness separates people from people" 

I've heard this so many times and it still rings true to this day. You know what? She's right. There are days when I wish I could join in a multi-person conversation (because, that's how girls communicate, for the most part) or even be a part of a music concert without having to read the lyrics ahead of time.

Without much ado, there are some environments we're avoiding for the time being to preserve Rachel's hearing, because of her thinner skull, she's at a much greater risk from loud sounds than adults. Loud, sustained noisy environments are the worst offender, not just for babies, but for adults too. The following are some examples:

  • Nightclubs, Bars, Pubs: I went to a nightclub, and will never go to one again. Too loud, and I think I can't even hear myself afterwards. The only superpower I have at these places is being able to lipread EVERYONE.
  • Music Concerts: while awesomely fun, the decibel levels go up 115dB! (the level at which sustained exposure may result in hearing loss is between 90-95dB)
  • iPods cranked up to the max: no words needed here.
  • Construction sites (keep in mind most construction workers are covered under some compensation body): we had our driveway jacked and re-paved. Glad we were out of town for that one.
  • Hockey Games, Sports events, Etc: once in a while we go - but we made sure that our little bub has the proper hearing protection (see below for photo)
Little one cheering on the Blue Jays this past summer!

There are other circumstances where hearing loss can be lost without actually ever going to a noisy environment:

  • Ear Wax buildup: the cardinal rule when growing up was NEVER to use a q-tip to clean my ears. My mom played it super safe and always went to a doctor to get my ears flushed. (I had a lot of ear wax buildup from wearing ear molds).
  • Ear Infections: If left untreated, can result in something more serious. Get this checked out, please!
  • Head Trauma: Take care of your head. Not just for concussions, but your auditory cortex in the temporal lobe (and other lobes too... I wouldn't want you to have memory problems as well!)
Practicing safe head protection!
For Rachel, we didn't take her to any noisy places until she was at least 3 months old - and waited until she was 6 months old before going on a plane. At least it gave her some time to get accustomed to our noisy world. In the photo above, we shopped on Amazon and got the Baby Banz earmuffs (about $30, worth every penny).

There's also a way to 'self' check your hearing as well. According to Hearing Life Canada, you can do the following (I culled this list from their website):
  • Do you hear people speaking but have difficulty understanding the words?
  • Do you find yourself asking others to repeat themselves?
  • Do people seem to mumble?
  • Are certain female or children's voices difficult to clearly understand?
  • Do you find it difficult to follow conversations in a crowded room or in groups of people?
  • Do you ever avoid social situations because of your hearing?
  • Do you find yourself having to turn the volume up on your television or radio?
  • Do you ever respond or answer inappropriately in conversations?
  • Do you have a family history of hearing loss?
  • Do you take medications that may contribute to hearing loss?
  • Have you been exposed to loud sounds over a long period of time?
An answer of "YES" to any of the above questions is an indication that a person should have their hearing evaluated.
In closing, be sensible, be smart, and practice safe hearing.  The best first step is to take your child (and of course, yourself) to a hearing clinic for a hearing test. Most places are free, and I'll list the ones which I'm aware of in Canada:


  1. Hmm good idea!! I am happy to check this site and have added this in my bookmark list. Ear plug info

  2. Hi! Thanks for adding this to your bookmark list :) Always happy to promote safe hearing for all.