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Earth Day and Hearing Healthcare

Take a step outside…Look around you…our environment is so beautiful! Every body of water glistens and every piece of greenery sparkles. The squirrels bounce around the grass, burrowing for nuts. The beaver gnaws at a tree trunk – its meal for the day. The raccoon tip-toes across the path, looking for its next meal. The whoosh of the doe prancing in a wooded area, her fawn not far behind her. She is protecting them, finding food and shelter. A tall crane walks quietly on the sidewalk, searching for the smallest movement in the bushes. An ever so slight indication of life inside the greenery, the crane briskly moves the leaves away and sticks its head in the bushes. With one quick motion, he grabs the gecko with his beak and slurps it down his throat. Lunch!

It is the cycle of life and the growth and regeneration that happens in the environment around us. We see it every day, in our various settings. The sounds that surround us are the barometer of life – the changing, giving and growing that allows us all to survive and thrive. If we take a moment to digest all of the amazing events in the environment that surrounds us, we would be able to see all that our natural resources provide for us and all that we can use them for to help us survive and thrive. It’s a mindful and uplifting thought on this Earth Day.

Earth Day! This is the time that we take a step back and look at the beauty of the world that surrounds us. We remember to appreciate our environment and figure out ways in which we can   contribute, save, and do our part in its continued development. Often we think of ways we can use the resources our environment offers us for our everyday life, and reduce the stress we unwittingly place on that which surrounds us. In our daily existence, this may mean recycling more or maximizing the use of solar energy. There are many ways to contribute and to be sensitive to the environment in our everyday lives.

There are many ways we can be environmentally conscious and still practice good hearing health. For hearing aid users, music listeners, or even those who are hearing conscious, here are some tips for being environmentally friendly:

  1. Don’t Buy Cheap Disposable Hearing Aids:

It may be tempting to buy a device that costs less and are quickly fit to your hearing loss, but research has shown that cheaply made hearing aids are wasteful. The sound quality is poor, they often amplify all sounds and not just the ones that are targeted, and the wearer usually has much more difficulties with speech discrimination. Thus, these devices are either thrown in the drawer or in the garbage – thus taking up room in a landfill. It would be more environmentally friendly to invest more money in devices that are prescribed and programmed specifically for you. The more longevity your hearing aids have, the more environmentally friendly they are.

  1. Donate your Old Hearing Aids

Outgrown your hearing aids or ready for new technology? Your old hearing aids can be repurposed! Particularly previously used Behind-the-Ear (BTE) or Receiver-in-the-Canal (RIC) hearing aids can be refurbished, cleaned and reprogrammed for someone else – coupled with an earmold specific to the new wearer. Even old custom-fit hearing aids can be sent to certain laboratories to be re-cased and refurbished for a new wearer.

  1. Donate Your Old Musician’s Products

Similar to repurposing old hearing aids, when you are ready for new In Ear monitors your old units can be donated. If your monitors are universal, it is easy to clean them up and put a new tip on the end – or a new earmold – for a new user. If these are custom fit monitors, they can be re-cased by one of the labs for a nominal fee. Alternatively, you can hold onto your old In Ear monitors and use them for a different purpose. For example, your old In Ear monitors might be best suited as useful at the gym. That way, if anything goes wrong with them, you still have your main pair to use when you are listening/ rehearsing/performing.

  1. Buy Custom Hearing Protection

Using hearing protection is a great practice when exposed to loud noise or music. This way, you are sure to preserve your hearing as long as possible. Using foam plugs or universal fit flanged earplugs are both good practices to effect proper hearing protection. However, the universal products only have a limited usage. After 2 to 3 uses, some of them need to be thrown out. It’s more environmentally friendly to use the same plugs as long as possible. To do this, you can get fit with custom hearing protection. A silicon ear mold impression is made and an ear mold is generated from that impression. This allows for a custom fit and hermetic seal. The custom fit increases the likelihood that the earmold will protect hearing adequately in the presence of loud sounds. In addition, the custom earmolds can be used continuously. In fact, some earmolds can be designed with various filters so that the earmold can be functional in a variety of different environments. Reducing the amount of landfill by continually using the same earmolds is particularly environmentally sensitive.

  1. Buy Mercury-Free Hearing Aid Batteries

Like most batteries, hearing aid batteries typically consist of certain amounts of mercury. Old batteries emit small amounts of mercury and eventually, even years from now, that mercury will be released into our water supply through landfills. Many companies now make mercury free batteries. They last just as long and are environmentally friendly. Ask your hearing healthcare provider if they use mercury free hearing aid batteries.

  1. Repurpose Old Batteries

Typically, when the hearing aid battery no longer works, we would dispose of it. Right? If we use one hearing aid battery per hearing aid per week –that’s eight hearing aid batteries per month, all of which will be thrown in the garbage when the individual power supplies are exhausted. Although one might think that there is no other choice, if you get a little creative there might be plenty of ways to repurpose old, unusable hearing aid batteries.

If you are artistic, you can make sculptures or abstract art. You can use them as “bling” for accessories such as hats, scarves, pocketbooks, or belts. Use them to decorate candles, picture frames or musical instruments. They would also provide a great standing ground for an upright candle.

Alternatively, you can avoid throwing out old batteries altogether by purchasing a hearing aid that has an option for a rechargeable battery unit. This way, when the batteries exhaust their power supply, you can just recharge it. Nothing to fill a landfill at all!

  1. Take Care of Your Hearing Products

The better homecare you have with your hearing health care products, the longer they will last and the less likely you will have to replace them. This is less costly for you as the user, but it is also more environmentally friendly as well. Use the tools you were given after every use to brush off the hearing product and to scoop out any excess wax. You should wipe down your hearing aids or musician’s products with a special lint-free cloth that can be re-washed in mild soap and lukewarm water. You can use special cleansers (Nonalcoholic) for your hearing aids and for musicians products to deeply sanitize them on a regular basis. Furthermore, if you bring your products into the office for regular cleaning, suctioning, and programming, you will lengthen the time that these products will be usable for you.

  1. Reduce the Overall Packaging

More of a note to the manufacturers rather than the actual consumer: hearing healthcare products are always better received with less materials. Fewer cases…Less boxing and packaging…fewer instruction manuals. Most people only use one type of case and, more often than not, all the boxes get thrown out. Furthermore, people lose the instruction manuals or they throw them out, thinking that they’re not going to need them after a while. Consider less packaging, offering fewer cases, and making the instruction manuals available online or to be emailed to the patient directly. This would reduce the overall packaging, most of which is typically thrown in the garbage. This practice would be much more environmentally friendly.

  1. Get Your Hearing Tested!

There are many ways that getting a hearing test can help the environment. First, living with a hearing loss often causes the need for clarification. This requires additional energy to be expended on your part and on the part of the speaker. It sounds silly, but that added energy is processed and used in the environment. If we could limit the extra energy by striving for seamless communication, that would be helpful to the overall health of the environment. Also, studies have shown that people who live with untreated hearing losses tend to become socially isolated. There is also a correlation between cognitive decline and untreated hearing loss. Therefore, having your hearing tested and treating a potential hearing loss can maintain your ability to be a mindful, happy contributor to our society and to the environment as a whole. Our environment thrives on happiness!

The future of our environment is contingent upon everybody taking on a role in saving it. We can use less, recycle more, and maintain our hearing health in a way that is sensitive to the world around us. If we all were a little more environmentally aware, we would see massive changes in the near future. We can keep contributing positive energy and offering productive contributions to our society to help our environment flourish.

Happy Earth Day– Happy Hearing!

Written by New York Speech and Hearing

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