Why Hearing Protection is Important

posted on January 29, 2019

There are somethings in life you can depend on: the 9 mm vs. .45 ACP controversy; the sun rises in the east and sets in the west; and The New York Times gets it wrong on firearms.

Then I had someone ask me, “Have you seen the New York Times article on hearing loss?” Yeah, right, what are they going to say, that women and minorities are most affected?  No, that hearing loss can lead to an increased risk of dementia, depression, falls and cardiovascular disease.

Wait, what? A column on hearing loss and the medical issues that can result. Not just, “Yep you can’t hear so well,” but actual medical problems?

After a moment’s thought, I could see how those could happen. If you did not protect your hearing before now, you must going forward. You might have been in the military, where such a thing is not considered important or even considered untactical. Guess what? Those people were wrong. And hunters, if you think leaving your hearing unprotected so you can better hear game, that is a short-term boost at best.

And the point of origin for the ills pointed out in the studies that The New York Times mentions, I’m sure, stems from social isolation. Social isolation? Yes, the isolation caused by being “that guy.” You know, the one at the gun club who everyone tries to talk to as little as possible because you have to shout? He catches every other word at best, and shouts “What?” on a regular basis. Sooner or later, everyone gives up trying to talk to him because it’s just so much work.

Lack of friends, social groups, interactions with others, can lead to depression. That will probably be shown to advance the onset of dementia. Your brain is an energy hog greater than any other organ. When you think, you were burning energy and, as the supply runs low, you get distracted. Loopy, I call it. Well, when you can’t hear well, your brain has to work harder to figure out what it is trying to hear. Or, it has to just throw up its metaphorical arms and say, “Forget it.” You get tired, and you start making mistakes.

The idea of falling made me think. Back when I was involved in the martial arts, we sparred a lot. One night, just on a whim, the lead instructor switched off one bank of lights and then another, until we were sparring only by the light through the windows of the donut shop across the parking lot. I know you can fight with that little light, and I know you can identify people just by the way they walk. You can also pick up clothes from hearing. Have you ever entered into a dark room, crossed the room and turned on the light so you can see? Of course you have. Part of that navigation through the dark is that you can hear the echoes of your movement off the furniture. Now, take that feedback away. You’re tired from your brain working extra hard all day long, you can’t hear the feedback echoes well, so you walk into the room and stumble over something you’d otherwise have noticed (albeit at a subconscious level). So you fall.

The cardiovascular disease link? I haven’t a clue. I’m not a doctor, and I haven’t even stayed in a hotel near a hospital. But, and this is the important part, the doctors doing the research aren’t focused solely on firearms. They are looking at other sources. They’re looking for a solution, and for now, the solution is a hearing aid. They are expensive, they don’t work as well as the original equipment, and they take time and patience to get used to.

You know how you can make the future hearing aid you may need work better? Protect your hearing now. The less you lose, the less the hearing aid will have to fill in for you. The less you lose, the less your children and grandchildren will have to shout when they visit, and less likely to say, “Do we have to go to visit grandpa and grandma? I always have to shout when I talk to them.”

Don’t be that guy or gal.

Whenever the subject comes up, I think of my dad, who insisted on my having hearing protection from the start. So now, when I peruse my hearing test results, I find that I still have it.


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