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hearing health

How to Help Protect Your Eyes and Ears This Summer

Outdoor concerts and activities are synonymous with summer, offering Texans an opportunity to enjoy the warmer weather. But these traditions often have a connection to the health of your eyes and ears, so it is important to be mindful as we celebrate the summer and all that goes with it.

Here are several summertime settings to take note of to help protect your eyes and ears: 

A Day in the Sun
If you’re planning an outing that involves many hours in the sun, it is a good idea to use eye protection in addition to sunscreen. 

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause damage to both your skin and your eyes. UV rays may contribute to the development of cataracts and macular degeneration, which may result in blindness. Intense short-term exposure to UV light may cause “eye sunburn,” a painful condition associated with outdoor recreational activity. 

Too much long-term exposure may contribute to skin cancer around the eyes and sight-threatening conditions. To help reduce these risks, protect your eyes from the sun by wearing sunglasses that block out 99% or more of UV rays and a wide-brimmed hat. 

Keep in mind that it is important for people – especially children – to get outside and take breaks from digital devices. Studies show that natural light can promote healthy vision, especially among children and teens with developing eyes, and that spending time outside may be a protective factor against nearsightedness. Partly due to extended periods of up-close reading and screen time, more than 40% of Americans have nearsightedness (myopia), which is the inability to see far off objects clearly, and the percentage is growing.

Sounds of Summer
Summer is also a popular time for sporting events and music concerts, which can lead to exposure to loud sounds. Crowd noise at some sporting events can exceed 90 decibels; music concerts can exceed 115 decibels. Prolonged exposure to sounds above 85 decibels may contribute to gradual hearing loss, so it is a good idea to use ear protection – such as earplugs or earmuffs – when seeing your favorite team or band. This type of protection is especially important for babies and children attending loud events, as young people’s hearing follicles are more easily damaged compared to those of adults.   

Likewise, extended listening to music or digital content through headphones or earbuds may damage hearing over time. To help prevent that, turn the volume on your electronic device to 60 percent or lower and listen for no longer than 60 minutes at a time. When using power tools or a lawn mower, never listen to earbuds.   

Considering these tips may help you focus on fun, friends and family during the summer, while helping maintain your eye and ear health – and as a result contribute to your overall health – now and in the future.

Tips to Help Prevent and Treat Hearing Loss

More than 90 percent of Americans know that exposure to loud sounds can cause hearing loss; however, just 50 percent correctly recognized that both one-time exposure to a loud sound and cumulative exposure to moderately loud sounds can harm hearing health, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey.

Hearing loss affects more than 48 million people nationwide, and it could become even more widespread in the coming years: more than 1.1 billion young adults worldwide are at risk of developing hearing loss, according to a study by the World Health Organization.

These statistics are a reminder for people to check their hearing health – and that of their loved ones – to help prevent the condition or, if necessary, obtain treatment. Hearing health is crucial to overall health, as research shows hearing loss is associated with social isolation, dementia, depression and increased risk of falls.

To help encourage better hearing health in 2019, consider these tips:

  • Limit exposure to loud noises: People should limit their exposure to loud sounds, such as music, lawn mowers or motorcycles, to no more than 20 minutes at a time. If attending a football game or music concert, consider wearing ear protection (i.e. ear plugs). This is especially true for young people, as children’s ears are more susceptible to harm caused by exposure to loud sounds. While hearing loss is more common among older Americans, younger people can also be affected: about 20 percent of people over age 12 experience some level of hearing loss. 
  • Opt for noise-cancelling headphones: One factor spurring the increased risk of noise-induced hearing loss is the growing popularity of earbuds. People should consider over-the-ear headphones – especially models with noise-cancelling properties – as those are generally considered a better option than earbuds. When using earbuds, follow the “60/60 rule,” which means listening for no more than 60 minutes at a time and at no more than 60 percent of the player’s maximum volume. If someone else can hear your music while you’re using earbuds, it’s an indication of excessive volume. 
  • Talk to a health professional and schedule a hearing test: Common signs of hearing loss include turning up the volume on the TV or radio to levels that others find too loud, having trouble hearing people on the phone, and difficulty following conversations in noisy environments. Some primary care physicians are starting to offer hearing testing, making it more convenient to follow recommended guidelines, which includes being screened at least every decade through age 50 and then at three-year intervals thereafter. 
  • Explore ways to save on hearing aids: Hearing aids can be expensive, but more affordable options are available. Direct-to-consumer hearing aids can enable people to save 60 percent or more compared to devices sold through traditional channels. And a growing number of health plans are offering coverage for hearing aids, including through some Medicare Advantage and employer-sponsored benefit plans. 
  • Use effective communication strategies: Hearing aids are more helpful when people use effective communication strategies, such as watching lip movements and facial expressions, and selecting settings that are “hearing friendly.” For example, people with hearing loss should opt for restaurants that are relatively quiet and go at times that aren’t as busy. Another strategy is to select a table along a wall or in a corner, which will reduce background noise.