by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition
In “Loud Noise: The Not-So-Silent Killer Is Back,” Kimberly Rae Miller, writing in the July/August AARP Bulletin, notes that the end of the pandemic will very likely bring us back to a noisier world. This noisier world also means a less healthy world because, as the growing numbers of scientific studies have indicated, noise is hazardous to our health and well-being.
Miller’s article refers to a recent study that found that living in a noisy area increases risk of stroke, while living in a quieter community reduces the risk. She also cites the American Heart Association warning that people living near noisy airports and highways are at greater risk for heart attacks. Miller stresses the link between hearing loss and cognition. Recognizing that older people often suffer from hearing loss, Miller points out that people who are embarrassed about their hearing loss may reduce their social interactions. This isolation from others may put these people at a greater risk of cognitive decline. Thus, it is indeed important to urge individuals, especially older people, to get their hearing tested and, if required, get hearing aids.
With the return to a noisier environment, we all need to be more conscious of the elements in our environment that are loud, such as lawn equipment and jackhammers, and protect ourselves from these sources of loud, damaging noise. Suggestions to lower the volume include: driving with closed windows, measuring sound levels of restaurants using the free app Soundprint, and using earplugs to protect your hearing when exposed to loud noises.
Dr. Douglas M. Hildrew, the medical director of the Yale Hearing and Balance Program, recommends that all people should check their hearing at the age of 60. Too often he sees patients after they have experienced some hearing loss and suggests that people should seek out online hearing assessments earlier rather than later. AARP members can take The National Hearing Test free once a year by going to the test site.