Today is Save Your Hearing Day. Hearing greatly influences your ability to communicate with the world around you. I encounter inaccessibility all the time but cherish the fact that I can communicate effectively with those around me. Hearing is something I used to take granted whether I was listening to music or just having an everyday conversation with a stranger. I have learned the value of hearing from my brother, Nghia.
My Brother Nghia
When I was 5 I began asking for a sibling from my parents. In August of 1999, my wish came true when we adopted my brother, Nghia, from Vietnam. I was 7 and he was 5. Nghia struggled to learn English and it was difficult for us to communicate with him. After a year of struggle, we discovered he was hearing impaired. Although we will never know exactly what caused his hearing loss, it is suspected that he has untreated ear infections.
Nee had a hard adjustment when he joined our family.
Nghia was good at covering up his hearing loss, so it took a while for my parents and doctors to figure it out. He was and is an excellent lip reader. My cerebral palsy prevents me from signing, so his excellent lip reading has allowed us to communicate. He did learn to use American Sign Language in school and that allowed him to communicate with others in the Deaf community.
I am proud of all he has accomplished, as his hearing impairment is not his only disability. Believe it or not, one of his most accomplished talents dancing! He used to take dance lessons, but he is mostly self-taught. When Nghia dances, people clear the floor to watch!
Save Your Hearing
Despite all his accomplishments, I often wonder what doors of opportunity would have been open to him if he has not had such a significant hearing impairment. If the suspicions are correct of the cause of his hearing loss, it was totally preventable. Nghia’s situation demonstrates how important it is to care for your ears to prevent hearing loss.
Hearing Aides are expensive and not all states provide hearing aids for those on medicaid. Most insurance companies will not cover hearing aids. So it is very important to preserve as much of your hearing as you can. My brother adjusted to his deafness because he was so young. The older on gets, the harder it is to adjust.
60/60 Rule for Hearing Loss
The 60/60 rule is a good one to follow. Listen to your MP3 device for a maximum of 60 minutes a day at 60% maximum volume. Many MP3 devices have a smart volume setting. Additionally, use noise canceling headphones rather than turning up the volume is highly recommended.
If you work in a noisy environment, wear earplugs! Even at home, be smart when using noisy equipment such as table saws, lawn mowers or power drills. Also take precautions when at loud events such as concerts or car races. Children especially should have ear protection at these events as well.
Drive Smart to Save Your Hearing
We have all been guilty of “jamming” to loud music in our cars. Loud music in a confined space can cause hearing loss. Turn down the tunes when driving, it will not only save your hearing but also help you be more aware of your surroundings.
A while back I was talking to a guy whose dad lost his hearing from driving. It was not because he played his music too loud. Surprisingly, it was from years of having the wind blowing in his ear. For years he wanted to save gas and not use the air conditioning, so he drove down the highway with his window down. The wind caused quite extensive damage to his left ear.
Seemingly harmless habits can sometimes hurt us in the end. Be smart, as once you lose your hearing it rarely comes back unassisted.
Rest for Your Ears
We never think twice about resting our eyes when they are strained. However we rarely think about resting our ears. When exposed to loud music or equipment, it is important to give your ears a rest. If you are getting your groove on at a club, take a break and chill outside for a bit. This will give your ears a break. It is recommended to give your ears 16 hours of quiet rest after extended exposure to loud noise.
Treat your ears like any other valuable body part. Get regular check-ups and hearing tests. Some medications can cause hearing loss, so be careful to only take recommended doses. Also keep your ears clean and dry, but not with Q-tips! If you have an earache or a suspected ear infection, get it treated immediately!
Ear Health is mostly common sense practices. Take it from someone whose body mostly does not work, hold on to what does work!
Preserving my hearing and ability to communicate is a valuable lesson I learned from my brother, but that is just one of many lessons. Over the past 20 years, he has taught me to be a patient, kind human being. He has also taught me that being a brother is one of the most rewarding responsibilities you will ever have. This blog is dedicated to my strong, determined brother.
Until next time, Keep Rollin’ and Keep Smilin’