Holiday Cheer for the Ear: Gift Ideas for Every Family Member

holidayCheerEach year I find it harder and harder to pick out that special gift for my loved ones. This year, I’ve decided to give the gift of hearing! As an audiologist, my job is not only to treat hearing loss, but to also help with hearing loss prevention as well. So here are some ideas for family members of all ages.

Let’s start with the kids. I can already tell you my niece and nephew have toys on their wish list this year and my guess is they aren’t quiet toys either. Fire trucks, tablets, musical instruments or talking dolls all emit sound. Unfortunately, the hidden danger with these toys is the noise they produce could be as harmful to a child’s ears as using a chainsaw. Make sure to be mindful that noise-induced hearing loss is possible in children, but it is 100 percent preventable! So before you buy that toy with all the cool lights and sounds, listen to the toys and if they are bothersome to you, most likely they will also be harmful to your children. Check for a warning label of possible hazardous noise. Gravitate toward toys that have a volume control or can be turned off.

Speaking of noisy toys, I have a few relatives who have “noisy toys” of their own that could be damaging to their ears. Whether they are hunting, farming or woodworking, their ears are being exposed to destructive noise levels. In fact, one single gunshot can cause a severe hearing loss almost instantaneously. Hearing protection is vital in preventing permanent damage. Hearing protectors may be earmuffs, earplugs or even custom plugs. For the hunters, electronic products (i.e., game ears) allow you to hear soft and moderate sounds normally while protecting against loud impulse noises.

I cannot forget my musically inclined family members who either love attending concerts or playing concerts of their own. Earplugs or earmuffs would be equally beneficial to them as well. One of those relatives is already checked off the list as he was proactive and had custom earplugs made to use during his band’s performances. With his earplugs, he is receiving the protection he needs while still monitoring his own voice and guitar output effectively. As for those MP3 player users, keep that volume turned to the left. If you have ear buds in, listening to music and the person standing next to you can hear the music, it’s too loud. Also, limit how long you use those devices. Even though there is large storage and battery life that doesn’t mean you need to use it all at one time!

As for my family members who already have hearing loss, I am strongly recommending they have their current hearing aids serviced to ensure proper function or even try some new hearing aids or accessories. At our clinic, we believe that experience is the best teacher, so we offer a two week “test drive” of the most advanced hearing aid technology to all of our patients. The “test drive” is designed to allow our patients to use properly fit hearing aids in their own environments so they gain first-hand experience with amplification without any obligation of purchase.

So if you are looking for a great gift for your parent, spouse or other friends and family members, try the gift of hearing and make sure no one is missing out on the memorable moments of the holidays.

By Dr. Kendra Neugebauer

Audiologist at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital