Preserve Your Hearing

Seriously though you do need to preserve your hearing.  For quite a few years I’ve suffered from tinnitus (ringing in the ears).  It started out as something I’d occasionally hear.  But during the past couple of years it has gotten increasingly worse; even to the point that I wouldn’t hear things at time.  That, coupled with a hearing loss made for some very frustrating times.  In some restaurants, I couldn’t follow or even hear conversations.

So what caused my tinnitus and hearing loss?  Well you really can’t put a finger on it.  It could’ve been an injury, disease or illness or prolonged exposure to loud noises.  Could it have been working on and around steam engines, yes real steam engines when I was young?  Probably.  Concerts?  Sure.  Working in a mechanic’s machine shop when I was young?  Sure.  Riding a motorcycle even with a full face or open face helmet?  Sure.  Working as a police officer riding a motorcycle with one of those “half or shorty” helmets (most of it on a Harley Davidson that the muffler baffles somehow got punched through)?  Probably.  Riding my own motorcycle with a half helmet?  Probably.

But we get older and want to preserve what he have.  Just over a year ago I started wearing ear plugs when I rode the motorcycle even though now we wear modular helmets.  I experimented with 3 kinds.  I tried the roll up foam ones but the always felt like they were coming out.  I tried the home kit where you mold them into your ear but those seemed like they muffled everything except wind noise.  Then I tried some thing called ETY Plugs from Etymotic.  The ETY plugs were comfortable and blocked a good bit of wind noise and due to their design they allowed for intercom use and even conversation off the motorcycle at fuel stops.  They’re reusable and about $13.00 a pair.  I’ve using and cleaning the same pair for a year now.  They do pull some “stuff” out when you remove them but just clean them with a damp cloth.  The funny part is that the audiologist I go to has brochures for these ear plugs and recommends them.  She actually discourages the use of foam plugs but admits that “they’re better than nothing.”

Fast forward to this summer when my primary care doctor referred me for a hearing test.  They told me that they might be able to help with my tinnitus through something called Tinnitus Retraining Therapy or TRT.  Here’s the simple explanation: you don’t hear the hum of the refrigerator because it’s benign and you’re used to it.  But you hear it now because I mentioned it.  TRT tries to get your brain to ignore the tinnitus by using other sounds, usually “white noise” of some type.  Silence is your enemy with tinnitus too.  TRT wants some sort of low sound to used all the time (tv, music, etc).  There’s sound apps for smart phones and tablets you can use too along with headphones or ear buds.  I found that even listening to a low white noise with ear buds, I could hear more conversation.  But you can’t always do that.  I even used an inexpensive sound machine at night but was told to get one you could play all night.  That sucker really helped at night!

But in the long run I ended up getting hearing aids that have sound generators in them also.  Luckily my hearing loss is not that bad so they (and I) hope these will work.  The hearing part on mine are only 8 channel and mainly enhance voice sounds.  But the sound generator gives me a low, constant white noise to merge with the tinnitus.  Believe me that the white noise is almost un-noticeable as compared to the tinnitus.  I’ve now worn my new hearing aids for a day and a half.  During the tuning process in the audiologist’s office I noticed an immediate difference.  For me they seem to be a worthwhile investment and Donna thinks so too.  But no you can’t wear them while riding!  Think of it, they may only make the damaging sounds louder!  The audiologist says that’s when you put in the ETY plugs.

The morale of the story here is to do something to protect your hearing.  It’s not that hard to do.  At minimum wear ear plugs when riding or mowing the lawn (I wear the old-fashioned ear muff style phones from the pistol range when mowing the lawn).  Once your hearing starts going away, it does not normally come back and there is no cure for tinnitus.

If this article helps just one person on the way to hearing loss prevention or gets them to use ear plugs then it’s a successful article!

Here they are!  The quarter is for size reference.  The silver parts go behind and on top of my hears while the wire loops into my ear.  The other plastic part helps secure it in and on my ear.

Here they are! The quarter is for size reference. The silver parts go behind and on top of my ears while the wire loops into my ear. The other plastic part helps secure it in and on my ear.

The hearing aids are barely noticeable.

The hearing aids are barely noticeable.

Categories: General, Safety | Tags: | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Preserve Your Hearing

  1. Thanks Chris, I have the same problem. I had a hearing test a couple of months ago. I don’t need hearing aids yet. I am going to look into this ETY thing… I haven’t heard of it.

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    • The ETY Plugs are comfortable. And at about $13 a pair I don’t consider them expensive for what they do. I hear less noise wind noise around the helmet and only needed to bump up the volume on the intercom a notch or two. For short stops I leave them in and can carry on conversations. It was more the tinnitus that caused me to get the hearing aids. Expensive but already money well spent.

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  2. Thank you for the referral to some affordable ear plugs! I use foamies right now, but wouldn’t mind a little upgrade this next season.

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    • WordPress has decided again to NOT notify me of comments! The ETY plugs are pretty inexpensive. The audiologist said they let the sound through that you should hear (voices, sirens, horns etc) while foam ones muffle everything. She aid the valve in them is key also allowing for perspiration an escape and variances in any pressure changes. There are more expensive ones out there but mine do the job for less than the cost of dinner at a restaurant.

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