Back in March 2020, I grew quite concerned that the government’s reaction to the coronavirus would cause many tragic and unexpected consequences. And beyond just grappling with the virus itself.
Indeed, just as I predicted (and as I’ve been reporting), the drastic, mandated lockdowns resulted in:
- Delays in detecting and treating deadly cancers
- Increases in serious diabetic events
- Problems with pain management
- Increases in depression, anxiety, and loneliness
- Surges in drug overdoses and deaths
- Skyrocketing rates of burnout among healthcare personnel
And now, we’re learning that the pandemic’s lockdowns caused yet another unexpected disturbance…one that may actually INJURE your brain!
Another long-term consequence of mandated lockdowns
During the many months of isolation, Americans grew more accustomed to a much slower—and quieter—way of life.
In fact, for many older Americans and “empty-nesters,” quarantine was nearly a “silent experience”…with very little exposure to loud noises.
Then, when the lockdowns lifted and life began to return back to “normal,” it seems many people had trouble re-adjusting to the constant noises of daily life.
In fact, according to a recent survey, more than 50 percent of Americans say they grew more sensitive to loud noises during the pandemic—an unexpected consequence—and now get regular headaches. (On average, they say they suffer an astounding six headaches a week!)
Plus, 33 percent say they now have tinnitus (ringing in the ears). And 28 percent have trouble hearing high-pitched sounds.
To help deal with all the irritating noises around them, more than 70 percent of those surveyed say they must now use earplugs to fall asleep at night. And about half of them say they use earplugs during the daytime to block out loud noises, too.
But regularly using earplugs to block out normal, everyday sounds is a bad idea for your brain. Here’s why…
The brain thrives on auditory stimulation
First of all, as I’ve reported before, we know that detecting and processing auditory signals stimulates the human brain.
So, when you experience less auditory stimulation (or block out every day sounds on purpose with earplugs), there’s decreased activity in key regions of the brain. This decrease can lead to brain atrophy, raising your risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and dementia.
Second, by blocking out environmental sounds, it makes it more difficult to socialize and engage with the world and people around you. And social isolation, all by itself, raises your dementia risk by a staggering 50 percent!
So, while I’m all for avoiding harmful noise pollution (as generated by leaf blowers, traffic, loud music, etc.), you can’t completely block out the sounds of the world. Indeed, your brain needs this kind of ongoing auditory stimulation.
Tips for healthy hearing in a post-pandemic world
It’s true that the pandemic took a major toll on us all. But I believe, to keep the brain firing all its neurons, we all need to make our way back to the land of the living.
Here’s what I suggest for healthy hearing in a post-pandemic world:
- Slowly start to train your brain to tolerate more noise by listening to soft, relaxing music in your car, at home, and on devices.
- If you feel the urge to use earplugs in noisy environments, use a brand that only blocks out background noise…not all noise.
- Help support healthy blood flow throughout your body…and to your ears…by engaging in 140 to 150 minutes of light-to-moderate exercise each week.
- Stay socially connected. (Better social engagement is one of the key factors for healthy aging and longevity too)
- Follow a healthy Mediterranean-type diet, which includes full-fat dairy (including butter, eggs, cheeses, and plain yogurt), wild-caught fish and seafood, grass-fed and -finished meat, nuts, seeds, fresh produce, and alcohol (in moderation). This type of balanced, whole food diet supports health for your brain and inner ear by supplying key vitamins and minerals.
- Ask your doctor to regularly assess your hearing. (Some health practitioners already do this.)
To learn more about the importance of maintaining a healthy sense of hearing as you get older, check out the June 2022 issue of my Insiders’ Cures monthly newsletter (“Silence can protect your health?”). If you’re not yet a newsletter subscriber, now is the perfect time to become one.
“Turn it down! Most Americans have grown more sensitive to noise since pandemic began.” StudyFinds, 2/28/22. (studyfinds.org/noise-sensitivity-pandemic/)