A Sure Path to Hearing Loss

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Photo by and courtesy of yunus-tug/unsplash.

I’m not the man I used to be! At 67 years of age and retired, I still tend to try to work like the 30-year-old version of myself. My body tells a different story. Since age 60, I’d noticed with each passing year of retirement that my strength and endurance diminished some. I just didn’t snap back the next day as I once did.

Another issue that developed over the years was hearing loss. I wasn’t overly concerned at first. I was using all the required personal protective equipment (PPE) and had been for some time.

As a teenager, I cut a lot of grass with a power mower, cut firewood with a chain saw and was an avid hunter and trap shooter. I don’t remember hearing protection being worn with regularity by anyone back then, including myself. That would have been in the early 1970s.

After graduation in 1975, I was gainfully employed working for the city parks department. Hearing protection was available, and, as I recall, we were given a hearing test to establish a baseline. PPE use wasn’t strictly enforced, however, and it was seldom worn. I wish now I’d had the common sense the good Lord gave me to have used it.
Years later, I suspected I might be experiencing some hearing loss, so I got tested again. Tests showed I had slight hearing loss in my left ear. I wasn’t too concerned. In 2011, I had my hearing retested. It had changed from slight to moderate loss in both ears, even with regular use of hearing protection.

My wife was getting tired of me saying “what” all the time, so I decided to get hearing aids in 2019. I was shocked at the sticker price. My hearing-aid use wasn’t constant. I never wore them while working and sweating, or while it was raining. I didn’t want to possibly ruin them.

Because my hearing worsened, it began to scare me. I couldn’t hear my grandchildren clearly. It was difficult to take part in conversations or hear all that was said while watching TV.

Several studies indicate that hearing loss can lead to memory loss, depression and anxiety. There will be certain words in the frequency loss range you are experiencing that you will no longer be able to hear or understand. You will have to retrain your brain to recognize them.

Normal conversations are in the 60-70 decibel (dB) range and are considered safe. Using lawn mowers, leaf blowers, string trimmers, chain saws, brush chippers and firearms with no hearing protection can all be extremely damaging over time. The decibel range can vary from 90-140 dB. I never did care for loud music, so that wasn’t a contributing factor for me.

In April of this year, after my latest test, I learned new technology was available to replace the hearing-aid tubes I was using. They work with the main body of the hearing aid. They share some of the same technology as the devices you see singers wear while performing, and I was assured they would make a noticeable difference right away. My hearing improved!

Hearing loss for most of us is gradual and is the accumulation of many years of noise exposure. My advice is to always wear your hearing protection whenever the dB level is 85 or higher!

If you think you’re experiencing some hearing loss, see your doctor and get tested. Did you know some local big box stores do audiology testing for free?

Steven F. Pregler is an ISA Certified Arborist and a retired city forester for the city of Dubuque, Iowa.

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