So your kids can’t hear you when you tell them to be home by 10 pm, but can miraculously hear you whisper to your husband, in another room, that maybe you should get them laptops. Just like dear hubby doesn’t hear you ask for help around the house but can hear a beer crack open a mile away. Many people would joke about their family members having “selective hearing” or being deaf, but a better question would be do they have accurate hearing? Aside from the rare pre-employment test or a school screening years ago, when did your family last have their hearing tested? Maybe it’s time!
I’m Going In!
You need to consider whether it’s apathy, a waxy buildup or legitimate hearing loss is causing your family to only hear what they want to. Until there is a lab test for apathy, you will need to consider the other two possibilities. Gross as it can be, sometimes a discussion about ear wax is necessary. Preferably not at dinner time.
Earwax or cerumen as it is referred to officially, can often create hearing problems, especially if it becomes impacted. According to physicians, an over the counter ear wax removal kit is the best bet for blocked ears. My physician explained to me that some people are more prone to wax production and if left alone the wax will not naturally build up. If there is frequent attempts to remove the ear wax with a cotton tipped applicator, then you often wind up pushing the wax further down into the ear canal. Interestingly enough, cotton tipped applicators, are really not meant for cleaning out your ears. So the old saying, “Don’t put anything smaller than your elbow,” is actually true.
If earwax is not the problem, then it’s time to actually consider a professional hearing test.
A professional audiologist can perform a hearing test to evaluate your hearing function. They are specially trained for this testing and have you complete the testing in a special sound booth for the most accurate results possible. Many insurances will cover these tests if ordered by a doctor.
Although teens are the obvious target, everyone from your infant to your elderly mother can benefit from periodic hearing tests because of age specific risks.
Young ears are impressionable in more ways than one. No curse words won’t burn those virgin ears, but hearing damage can occur at a young age. Loud televisions and exposure to loud noises that may be acceptable for adults can be dangerous for young kids.
With the proliferation of listening devices from iPods to video gaming headsets teens are at the greatest risk of hearing loss. As ironic as it is, they are also the group most averse to listening to the truth about their hearing.
Toolmasters, Toastmakers and Ticketmasters
Although adults should know better, we don’t. Loud noises from lawnmowers, leafblowers and anything from the Craftsman or Ford families can cause potential damage. Even indoor appliances like blenders and vacuums can cause hearing damage. And yes, you are learning now that those days spent at Led Zepplin/Poison/Baja Men concerts may come back to haunt you.
An Ounce of Prevention…
The best bet, of course, is prevention.
1. Limit headphone usage
While headphones are a sanity saver for parents, they allow kids too much control over the volume. Limit headphone use and teach children the proper volumes levels when they do use headphones.
2. Invest in earplugs
Yes earplugs are lame. But so is going deaf by the time you are 30. Much like condoms, earplugs are a safety device that are more likely to be used if available. Buy a big bin of industrial earplugs, and encourage family members to use when appropriate. You may want to explain that “appropriate” times do not include when you are trying to talk to them.
3. Mandate some quiet time
With the constant din surrounding us all day, even following us to bed with televisions on all night as we sleep (my bad habit, but you know some of you do it, too!), it is important to have some quiet time to create a baseline for your household noise level. Once you see how quiet it can be, you realize how loud it was.
4. Regularly schedule hearing tests
Much like other preventative maintenance, you need to add this to your list. If your hearing is fine, you will feel better. If it isn’t, you can consult a professional as early as possible to preserve as much as you can so you can still hear those precious kids and spouse complain for years to come.
Hearing, Ear Infections and Deafness. http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/. Accessed November 8, 2010.
Hearing Solutions: A Guide to your Child’s Hearing. http://www.betterhearing.org/hearing_loss/children_hearing_loss/index.cfm. Accessed November 9. 2010.