In the United States, October means Halloween parties, trips to the pumpkin patch, and the first annual donning of hats and scarves. For some, though, it also means yard work. Though the colorful leaves are beautiful, they fall into the yard, waiting to be raked, or into the gutters, waiting to be cleared. The trees they come from might have dead branches that need to be pruned before heavy snow breaks them off, and the grass just keeps growing.
As you go through your annual chores this year, keep your ears in mind. Whether your hearing is already damaged or you’re trying to prevent hearing loss, follow these tips to help protect your ears from the noise this fall:
Earplugs work by blocking sound waves from entering the ear canal and causing damage to the tiny hairs that sit inside. These hairs, when working properly, convert sound waves into electrical signals that the brain then converts into what we hear. However, these hairs can become bent or broken after exposure to loud sounds, damaging them and causing hearing loss. By wearing earplugs and blocking sound waves, you also prevent damage from occurring. So when you have your leaf blower, chainsaw, or lawn mower running as you do yard work, make sure to be wearing in-ear hearing protection like earplugs.
If your hearing is already damaged, this might seem like an unnecessary step. After all, if you don’t hear loud noises as loudly as those around you, it can be tempting to think that you don’t need to wear hearing protection. However, those hairs in your ears can still break and bend and become damaged further, meaning that earplugs are still important for you to wear.
Also, know that listening to music through earbuds and headphones (even noise-canceling ones) isn’t protecting your ears like earplugs. Even if the music playing seems like it’s blocking out the rev of the lawnmower, you’re still funneling loud noises directly into your ears. Moreover, you’ll likely have to play your music louder than you normally would in order to hear it over the lawnmower. This is a recipe for more damage, so opt for hearing protection instead.
Every fifteen minutes, take a break from your loud tasks. Whether that means sitting down and rehydrating with a refreshing glass of water or switching to less noisy tasks like watering the garden or cleaning the gutters, take a minute to give your ears—and the rest of you—a break.
Moreover, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your yard work doesn’t have to be completed in a single weekend. Try to schedule out all your tasks and get them done over a longer period of time, and especially try to give yourself at least 18 hours between noisier tasks. For instance, maybe on Saturday you mow the lawn and rake the leaves, but you wait until the next morning to use the weed whacker, and you wait until the next weekend to get out the chainsaw and tackle those dead tree branches.
Know When and When Not To Wear Your Hearing Aids
There are a few situations in which wearing hearing aids isn’t recommended, including several outdoor chores. If you’re doing something where you’ll be wearing ear protection, you probably already know not to wear your hearing aids at the same time. However, keep in mind that hearing aids are just like any other delicate electronic device in that they can become damaged by dust and moisture. Tasks that make you sweat or kick up a lot of debris may be harmful to your hearing aids, so when taking on those chores, it’s worth taking your hearing aids out and storing them properly.
However, on your breaks or when switching to a quieter, less sweaty task, feel free to take a moment to put them back on (just wipe off that sweat, first). Your hearing aids help you stay connected to the world around you, so even though it’s important to store and protect them sometimes, it’s also important to wear them when you safely can.
Visit Your Audiologist
If you’re regularly doing noisy yardwork or working in otherwise noisy environments, you’re at a higher risk of noise-induced hearing loss. Whether your hearing has already been damaged or you’re trying to prevent that from happening, check in with your audiologist to keep your ear health on track.