Ahhh – spring. Who doesn’t love the sights, sounds and promise the season brings? And, if you’re an American baseball aficionado, you know that spring also heralds the beginning of spring training.
What does baseball and spring training have to do with your hearing health? Ironically, many New Year’s exercise-related resolutions only last six weeks, just about the time it takes to get from the first of January to the beginning of spring training. Since we all know that exercise is beneficial to good hearing health, why not take a page from baseball’s play book and renew your resolve to lead a healthier lifestyle this year.
The warm up
What kid (or kid at heart) doesn’t like to get to the ballpark early enough to watch their favorite players warm up? News reels are full of eager kids hanging over the wall by the dugout, trying to get a player or two to sign their mitt or throw them a practice ball.
Even though you may not be signing autographs any time soon, a little seventh inning stretch is a good habit to adopt. With the advent of computers, more of us find ourselves hunched over a keyboard for work and pleasure. That can cause stiffness in our neck and shoulders muscles, which can reduce the amount of blood flow to the inner ear. Not only is this damaging to the delicate auditory hair cells responsible for translating the noises our ears collect into electrical impulses for the brain to interpret as sound, it can also aggravate tinnitus.
Tips before you begin your warm up:
• See the doctor before you begin any exercise program. He or she will help you determine the most appropriate fitness program for your age and overall health.
• Make exercise a part of your daily routine. With your doctor’s permission, find something you like to do that gets your body moving for 20-30 minutes every day.
• Listen to your body. Even some of the best athletes in the world end up on the injured reserve list every once in a while. If you’re not feeling well, take a break from your daily routine. If symptoms persist, see your doctor.
Now that you are cleared to play, here are a few stretching exercises to keep your neck and shoulders limber and the blood flowing effectively throughout the blood vessels of your ears and brain:
Shoulder stretch: Cross your left arm over your chest so your fingers point away from your right shoulder. Hold your left elbow with your right hand and pull it close to your body. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat on the right side.
Neck rotations: Looking straight ahead, drop your chin to your chest and relax. With your head still down, turn your chin slowly toward your left shoulder, back to the center, then to your right shoulder and back to center. Repeat on the other side.
Shoulder rotation: Hold your arms at your sides at shoulder height. Slowly, begin moving your arms in small circles forward. Increase the size of the circle as you are able until you’ve made ten circles in the air. Repeat the exercise in reverse.
Get in the game
Another exciting aspect of spring training is the opportunity to see new talent try out for the roster. The same principles these players use to get game-ready can also be applied to your hearing health.
• Don’t sit on the sidelines wondering why you aren’t hearing as well as you used to – make an appointment now to see a hearing healthcare professional for a thorough audiometry. If you don’t have a hearing healthcare professional, visit our directory.
• If you’re diagnosed with hearing loss, take steps immediately to treat the issue. If your hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids or cochlear implants, discuss the options with your hearing health professional and your family. Don’t let vanity get in your way of better hearing. Hearing aid users report a higher quality of life than those with untreated hearing loss.
• Create good listening environments for yourself whenever possible by asking friends, family and co-workers to face you when they speak, turn down the volume on televisions and radios when having conversations, and speak slower and louder.
Stay in the game
During spring training, existing team players get the chance to practice before the season begins. To translate that into terms of hearing health, do some fine tuning if you’re already a hearing aid user. At your next checkup, tell your hearing health professional if your lifestyle has changed in any way. The more your hearing healthcare professional knows about your lifestyle, the better she can help you maximize the hearing you have left.
Here are some good topics to discuss:
• Are your hearing aids working for you in every listening environment?
• Is there any new technology that might help you participate more fully in your lifestyle?
• Are you taking advantage of all the features your hearing aids provide?
Spring training exhibition games are a great way for all players to get tuned up for the season and any player worth his salt knows he needs to protect himself from injury by wearing the right gear. The same is true with your hearing health. No matter your degree of hearing loss, it’s important to do what you can to protect the natural hearing you have left.
Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common forms of hearing loss – and the most preventable. Whether you play baseball or participate in other sporting activities, it’s a good idea to know the noise level and protect your hearing if necessary.
Baseball has been an American institution since the early 1800s, so whether you’re a player, a spectator or just like the taste of hot dogs at the ballpark, get ready to enjoy the season. When you take your hearing health as seriously as you do your favorite player’s batting average, you’ll be able to hear your best on and off the field all year long.
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