Its strange, I didn’t realize the damage I was doing to myself until it was too late. But it took failing a hearing test with DOT to see that something is really wrong with my ears. I am tone deaf and now too much of a risk for driving a commercial vehicle. I didn’t always have such a hearing problem.
Back when I was a kid, I had frequent ear infections. I remember the pain at around age 5 or so. I would lay in my bed in agony over ear pain. Because of the ear problems, I had some kind of surgery performed. I’m not exactly sure of the detail on that surgery. But years later a doctor examining my ears closely made a mention that I have scars on my ear drums from surgery.
Could my hearing problems have come from the ear infections early on in life? It’s hard to say. But I certainly believe that I damaged my hearing while in the Air Force. I had to stand outside on the jet runways and protect those noisy and fast beasts. They would scream so loud, all you could do was stand there and wait them out while protecting your ears as best you could. I remember feeling the sound shake my body to its core.
I spent a few years enduring the loud noises from the combat planes. I worked mostly at night when everything was nice and quiet. But, during the daytime, it felt like they screamed near the dorms that I slept at. They constantly woke me up during the day. I had to wear ear protection while I slept, but then I could have risked missing my alarm clock. However, I was never late once for duty. Somehow I managed the schedule.
People asked me if I suffered any disabilities from the military, but I kept saying that I didn’t. I felt fine enough. I felt normal. I had no complaints to report.
Even when I got my first DOT physical exam over a decade ago, I took for granted that my hearing would stay strong. The tester even told me that I have significant damage for my age, but I was still passable. I should have tried harder to protect my ears. Maybe, the previous damage built upon itself and that made me get used to louder volumes which caused even more damage over time. I don’t know exactly.
Over the past couple years, I have listened to many hours of podcasts. I noticed that my ears tend to ring a little more after listening to the podcasts. Sometimes I would fall asleep while a long podcast was playing. I have no idea what they said, but my ears would feel like they were ringing louder than usual. It got to be very frustrating. I love to listen to podcasts, but I hate the ringing in my ears. The DOT physical has opened up my ears to the reality of how damaging my habits really were.
Now that I am too dangerous to drive commercial vehicles, maybe I don’t need to worry about trying to slow down the loss of my hearing. We all lose our hearing over time naturally anyway. I have to face reality that I am getting older and becoming less and less likely to be fit for duty.
People over 40 have a harder time getting hired for good reasons. Yes they are discriminated against, but this is for a good reason. Our senses and abilities just deteriorate over time and we suffer increased risks for accidents.
Kids these days listen with ear phones now more than ever. They also suffer increased hearing loss at alarming rates. They need to realize the sobering reality of listening to the ear buds. Even mildly low volumes can be damaging.
I’m going to try using hearing protection when I listen to my ear buds. I think part of my problem was with competing with the background noises. i tended to turn up the volume of my iPod to hear it, but this caused damage. I should have put more effort into cancelling out the outside noise instead. Let this be a reminder to everyone.