Summer is officially over. We’re smack in the middle of fall. Cold weather is right around the corner. For those with hearing loss, what does that mean?
Wintertime weather means bulky clothing like jackets, hats, and scarves. Protecting against the cold is important, but bundling up can also cause problems with speech and conversation. Hearing what your friend is saying can be difficult while walking side by side, both of you talking through your scarves.
For those escaping the cold by staying indoors, understanding speech in noise might not be any easier. The more crowded it is inside, the more ambient noise you have to compete with.
Cold weather can also cause physical problems. Because of the decreased blood flow and greater risk of “irritation, trapped moisture, or bacteria”, winter is the season most associated with ear infections. Middle ear inflammation is not uncommon in these months, and could result in an increase in hearing difficulty. For those with pre-existing hearing problems, this probably isn’t the most welcome news.
In cases of extreme cold, there is even a condition called exostosis. This is an abnormal grown of bone within the ear canal caused by “repeated exposure to cold wind and water.” Signs and symptoms include “temporary and ongoing hearing loss” and “increased prevalence of ear infections.”
So what can you do?
Be sure to still attend all those holiday parties! Though it may be harder to hear, don’t stay at home. Constant exposure to speech in noise is the best way to re-train / re-adapt your brain. Those with hearing loss know that conversation comprehension is not easy, but it can get easier.
Physically, wear ear muffs and scarves. Don’t let your ears get too cold or wet in the winter months. If you get an ear infection, see a physician or audiologist immediately. Cold weather hearing loss is often temporary, though it is definitely an unwanted nuisance.
The next few months are busy for everybody, but they’re also full of family, friends, and fun. Don’t worry about your hearing loss anymore than you need to.