With this year coming to a close, most of us look forward to the fresh start of a new one. It’s a time when the possibilities are endless and fantasies of self-improvement and better living thrive. Research proves what you probably already know: 95 percent of New Year’s Resolutions are fitness and health-related.
One pillar of wellbeing that is often overlooked is our sense of hearing. It doesn’t get the same attention that dropping ten pounds or perfecting the burpee does, but it has the potential to impact many facets of your life.
This year, add improved hearing to your New Year’s health goals and reap the benefits for decades to come.
Hearing loss in the United States
Approximately 30 million Americans live with hearing loss. Our culture tends to normalize vision care in a way that doesn’t extend to our sense of hearing. That may be why a majority of folks have had their vision tested within the past five years while only a small percentage has had a hearing exam.
Hearing health takes a backseat even as hearing loss progresses, too. Most people wait an average of ten years before intervening in hearing loss, which means that they wait until things are untenable before making a change.
But hearing health is interconnected to so much of our health and vibrancy. People with hearing loss are more likely to be sedentary and perform worse on basic physical health measurements like mobility, balance and walking speed. Even moderate hearing loss doubles your risk of dementia while severe hearing loss increases that risk five times over. Our mental and emotional health relies on a sense of connection and belonging, the type of social behavior that is severed when communication becomes frustrating due to hearing loss.
How to make successful hearing health goals in the New Year
On average, only 64 percent of people keep their New Year’s resolutions after four weeks. Three months later, that number drops to 10 percent. People in the select group of successful resolution-keepers probably know that long term progress is not a straight line, but a winding one. There will be ups and downs, setbacks and successes.
The secret to a good New Year’s Resolution is to make a clear, actionable goal that is within reach. Improving your hearing health is a wonderful headline, but the actionable items underneath that goal are what carries you through when the first wave of momentum passes.
Four actionable goals to improve hearing
Schedule a maintenance check up
For people that currently wear hearing aids, it’s important to take your devices in for a tune-up. Commit a period of time before the appointment, perhaps six or eight weeks, to really pay attention to how your hearing aids are working for you. Notice environments they work well in and when they feel challenging. Report all of this back to your audiologist so that they can program your hearing aids to perform as you need them to.
Include daily fruits and vegetables into your diet
People who eat more fruits and vegetables with infrequent servings of meat are more likely to retain their healthiest hearing. The vitamins and minerals found in leafy greens, berries and citrus are hard to get as efficiently anywhere else.
If this is a big stretch from your current habits, strive to Include one serving of fruit and one of vegetables daily, most of the time. Leave a little room for error so that you aren’t using all-or-nothing-thinking, which is a big momentum crusher. If you already eat a fruit and veggie every day, aim to have vegetables comprise more than half of your lunch and dinner plates, most of the time.
Increase your movement
People with hearing challenges tend to move less than people with healthy hearing by an average of 30 minutes per day. As time goes by, this leads to loss of mobility and strength.
Over the course of the year, add 10 minutes of physical activity into most days so that you’re clocking in 20-30 minutes of movement on most days by the end of the year. Remember, these goals exist to help us slowly move the needle toward healthier habits. It’s unrealistic and self-defeating to go from moving rarely on December 31st to 30 minutes of daily exercise. It’s also how people get injured. Instead, try to move for ten minutes in a way that you like. It could be walking, dancing in the kitchen, a short yoga video (or chair yoga!) or even a walking meditation. The type of activity isn’t as important as choosing something you know you’ll do regularly.
Schedule a hearing consultation
To chart a smart path forward, it helps to know where you stand today. Scheduling a hearing exam is a great way to determine your current levels of hearing and receive advice from professionals on next steps that acknowledge your hearing reality. This applies to people who wear hearing aids, too! Hearing loss is a progressive condition and your pattern and severity will change over time.