Turn It Down and Turn It Off

We live in a world of constant stimulation and often this comes in the form of noise. Much has been written about noise pollution and its harmful effects. In my profession, I am all too familiar with the accumulated damage that years of noise can have on one’s hearing. This for many is another preventable condition but so ignored as the damage is generally not noticed till decades later. Next time you are around loud music, concerts, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and numerous other sources of potential ear damage - move away or protect yourself as this something everyone can do. The baby boomers are now paying a big price in reduced hearing from years of neglected noise damage. Difficulty hearing in crowds or with background noise or hearing female voices is all too prevalent. Age plays a role too but noise injury is quicker. If you are having problems, get your hearing checked. Help is available as advances in hearing aids both in terms of miniaturization and effectiveness and individualization are all today the new norm.

Also, many people cannot even walk outside without ear buds or be in a room without a radio or TV on or music coming from multiple sources. Music is not bad, but the absence of quiet may affect us more than we realize. Interesting is the finding that quiet is more beneficial than even relaxing music. Music is great; we just don't get enough silence. Our world is too often a loud clang of millions of artificial sounds, so many familiar that we do not even notice their presence. Sirens, traffic, and horns all melt into our background and we don't think of them. However, even when we sleep they can cause micro arousals, and cause stress reactions in our body. Unfortunately, we do not fully realize what those 'noises' are doing to us. We do know that noise is a stressor. It disturbs our sleep, elevates our blood pressure, may impact memory, has been linked to strokes and heart attacks, and the World Health Organization in a United Kingdom study found noise to be responsible for 3 percent of coronary heart disease.

So, protect your ears! Wear ear protection when around loud noises. Either use ear foam plugs or noise protection head phones always - you will be thankful you did so many years from now. But also, take time not only to turn down the volume but turn it off. Work to find some daily quiet moments. See if you can be somewhere to truly hear a 'pin drop.' This could have psychological and physiologic benefits for you. John Muir, an environmental philosopher and advocate for wilderness preservation, said "only by going alone in silence without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness." Next time you are outdoors, turn off the phone, put away the music, and get into the heart of yourself.

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