When the mercury dips in wintertime there are so many things to worry about, from traffic snarls to frozen pipes. Unfortunately, protecting your hearing health should be on the list too. And if you have a hearing aid, protecting it as well.
The most obvious issue is exposure to cold, which can lead to exostosis. This is, ironically enough, also known as “surfer’s ear” but is actually caused by exposure to cold (the ocean water surfers spend time in is often pretty cold). It causes growths to occur in the bone around the ear canal, which can lead to blockages of it and increased risk of infection. Anyone who plans to spend a significant amount of time in cold weather — skiing, snowmobiling, working — should make sure they’ve got good ear protection in the form of hats or earmuffs.
Winter is cold and flu season, and that can include ear infections — which can include the buildup of fluids in the ear that can cause temporary hearing loss. The risk of infection is higher if ears aren’t dry and warm. Exercise helps too by increasing blood circulation.
If part of your winter routine includes running a snow blower, then your ears not only need protection from the cold, but from the noise too. These machines can put out more than 100 decibels of noise, enough to cause permanent ear damage. Foam earplugs, along with a hat, or noise-reducing headphones are really required equipment.
Finally, if you already use a hearing aid, winter can be rough on them. Moisture is the problem, both from blowing snow, rain, and sleet and the sweat that builds up in the ear canal when wearing a hat or earmuffs.
If you’re doing something that doesn’t require that your hearing be its keenest, then leaving your hearing aid in the house is the best bet. But there are spandex hearing aid covers that will cut down on moisture exposure. And if your hearing aid is exposed to cold, wet conditions make sure it is thoroughly dried out afterward.