That’s not surprising to Steven Aiken, Associate Professor, Audiology, Surgery, Psychology & Neuroscience at Dalhousie University in Halifax. “People sometimes assume hearing loss is just a normal part of life, and it’s alright to get by with just turning up the television or the stereo. But, changes in your hearing are changes in your body and in your health. Undiagnosed hearing loss is associated with all sorts of problems, including tinnitus, depression, social withdrawal, and cognitive decline.”

While hearing loss might be inevitable with the natural aging process if you are genetically predisposed, there is much that can be done about the rate and degree. Hearing loss is often the result of a lifetime of exposure to noise. So, it’s important to use protection in noisy, everyday situations — whether you’re mowing the lawn, riding a motorcycle, or using power tools. As Aiken points out: “It doesn’t mean you can never be anywhere loud, but you should take precautions. A good pair of earplugs can make things softer without compromising sound quality, and your ears will thank you.”

Hidden hearing loss

The belief used to be that the ringing in your ears experienced after attending a loud concert, for example, was just a temporary event that would dissipate after 48 hours. New research says the damage to your auditory system might actually be permanent because of noise exposure. Hidden hearing loss is an issue of concern since it may not show up in a hearing test. Research is ongoing about whether this type of damage can be reversed.

This latest news underscores the need for being diligent about hearing protection. Using earplugs or turning down the volume of your music player is something we can do. “Unfortunately, the latest data shows that many Canadians are reluctant to take steps to protect their hearing,” says Jillian Price, a London, ON, based certified audiologist and member of CASLPO (College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario). “Thirty-nine percent of people who knew they worked in noisy environments said they rarely or never used protection.”

Make your first step in preserving your hearing — schedule a hearing test. Dr. Price recommends every adult have one so changes can be monitored and tracked in the future.