Could your workout routine contribute to hearing loss?

When your workout is intensifying, it might be tempting to turn up the volume on your playlist to help you power through. But you might want to think twice. Your workout routine could inadvertently hurt your hearing over time, partly due to potentially overlooked sources of loud sounds at the gym.

Researchers say 1 in 8 people in the U.S. aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears, in part due to exposure to loud sounds, including music pumped through personal audio devices. Hearing loss is especially a problem among older people, with the condition now experienced by one-third of Americans between 64 and 75.

Worth noting: You can develop hearing loss before you even notice the problem. Once it happens, you can’t reverse it and treatment becomes the best option. Importantly, in many cases, noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented. Maintaining healthy hearing can also help boost your overall health, including cognitive, physical and social well-being.

Consider these tips that may help protect your hearing health when working out

1.     Follow the 60–60 rule for listening. Headphones and earbuds can produce sounds up to 110 decibels, which is like the blare of a live rock concert. At that level, hearing loss can occur after only a few minutes. To help reduce your risk, consider following the 60–60 rule. That means limiting listening to 60 minutes a day at just 60% of the device’s maximum volume. On some devices, you can set this as a custom limit.

2.     Invest in helpful technology. Health clubs are often loud places, prompting some people to increase the volume on their personal music devices to drown out background noise. Instead, consider opting for noise-canceling earbuds or over-the-ear headphones, which may help reduce background noise. Some smartphones now include “safe listening” features, including software that tracks the level and duration of exposure to sound.

3.     Exercise without music. While working out and music may seem a perfect combination, there can be advantages to turning off the workout playlist to focus on your form or take in the natural sounds around you. Quiet time may offer benefits for both your mind and body, including:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Steadied breathing
  • Reduced muscle tension
  • Increased focus and cognition

Beyond the workout

Avoid noisy places whenever possible and protect your ears when you can’t. Consider using over-the-counter foam ear plugs or ones that can be custom molded to protect your hearing at concerts, sports games and other loud venues. If you want to learn more about hearing loss, take this hearing health questionnaire to learn more about your hearing health, prevention and treatment options.

You may have heard

Some hearing aids are now sold without a prescription after a federal rule created a category of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. People with self-diagnosed, mild to moderate hearing loss have the option to buy OTC devices without a prescription or fitting adjustment by a hearing health professional. Even so, UnitedHealthcare Hearing recommends people interested in hearing aids start with a hearing exam with a licensed hearing care professional.

To help make early hearing loss treatment more accessible, millions of AARP members can take advantage of a no-cost hearing test and discount of up to 20% on prescription and OTC hearing aids through AARP® Hearing Solutions™ by UnitedHealthcare Hearing.1 AARP members do not need UnitedHealthcare insurance to take advantage of this program.

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