family in a snowy forest

Protecting Your Hearing in Winter

Well! Summer is in the rear-view mirror. You can stop being concerned about overly-loud lawnmowers hurting your hearing, trapped swimming pool water leading to ear infections and sweaty weather getting unwanted moisture into your hearing aids.

That’s true, but winter presents its own hearing related challenges. Let’s look at a few:

Keep your ears warm and dry. This is about a lot more than just avoiding the sting of cold outer ears. The risk of painful and potentially damaging middle-ear infections (otitis media) is high during the winter months, so protecting your ears with ear muffs, a headband or scarf is an important precaution. If you’ve worked up a sweat while underneath your hearing protections, be sure to dry your ears (and hearing aids) thoroughly when you remove that protection. 

Beware of “surfer’s ear.” It doesn’t sound like a winter ailment, but it is for active people who get their ears sweaty in winter. In addition to raising the risk of ear infections, the combination of cold, windy weather and moisture inside your ears can also lead to a condition called exostosis, in which bony growths form in the bone surrounding the ear canal. That can constrict the ear canal, trapping moisture and impacting earwax.

Watch out for winter noise. Do you have a snow blower? Those things are loud. They can be louder than 100 decibels, which is well above the 85-decibel threshold at which noise-induced inner-ear damage can occur. Wear foam earplugs or headphone style ear protection.

Protect your hearing aids. If you don’t absolutely need your hearing aids while you’re outside dealing with chores like snow-blowing or shoveling, you may want to consider just leaving them inside. Electronics can be temperamental in cold temperatures, and since perspiration is a fact-of-life underneath earmuffs, scarves and such, you can be unnecessarily exposing your hearing aids to moisture. When you do find yourself in a situation where moisture and condensation form on your hearing aids, take out the batteries, wipe the outside and battery compartment with a soft, dry cloth and then store your hearing aids in a hearing-aid dehumidifier overnight. Dehumidifiers can be purchased at reasonable prices and can prevent the much more expensive experience of having your hearing aids damaged by moisture.

Hears wishing you a winter that sounds absolutely wonderful!