Protect your hearing

This week, at the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest, I’ll keep my eyes open for big bass, but my sense of hearing will also play an important role. This week will likely see a lot of schooling activity, and it will be imperative for me to pick up the sounds of these feeding fish fast enough to get a bait in front of them.

You know, hearing truly is one of an outdoorsman’s biggest considerations; whether you’re listening for schoolers, detecting a slurp or a pop from a fish feeding in a mat or simply enjoying the soothing the sounds of nature while you’re fishing.

That’s one of the reasons May is Better Hearing and Speech Month; an initiative founded in 1927, by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association to raise awareness about hearing and speech problems.

As someone with partial hearing loss, I can personally speak to this topic and the best piece of advice I can offer young anglers today is to protect your hearing. Be aware of the sport’s impacts on your ears and do everything you can to maintain your hearing as long as possible.

When I’m in crowded places, to be able to hear properly, I have to wear my Miracle-Ear hearing aids. My case is probably very similar to many other anglers, in that I suffered hearing loss due to excessive wind noise of running at high speeds for 30 years.

Most anglers who have made really long runs can attest to reaching your destination and having your ears ringing. That’s a good sign that your ears have been exposed to more noise than they can handle. 

One of the simplest, yet, most impactful preventive measures you can take is ear protection — something to muffle the noise of a powerful outboard engine. I wish I had done this years ago, but now I use industrial hearing protection that’s custom fitted by Miracle-Ear for maximum protection. Equipped with a cord that hangs around my neck, these devices fit into my ear canal to block out damaging noise.

The small foam ear plugs available over the counter offer some protection, so that’s better than nothing, but I’d strongly recommend the highest level of protection you can get. And don’t wait until you’re my age to find out that you have a hearing issue — take precautionary steps now, like my son and fellow Elite Series pro Alton Jr., who wears Miracle-Ear hearing protection every time he’s running.

I’d also recommend that anyone over 40 have their hearing checked and then return for regular annual checkups. Today’s hearing aids are made in a variety of sizes and styles with many discreet options that often can correct hearing loss.

Whether it’s bass boats or shotgun blasts, most outdoor sports have some type of negative impact on your hearing. The good news is, you don’t have to give up your passion — you just need to address the realities and do something about it.

The reason I’m so passionate about this topic is that I understand that hearing loss can isolate people and even impede family closeness. I always had a great relationship with my parents but when they got fitted with their Miracle-Ear hearing aids, it brought us closer together. 

That’s one of the reasons I got tested myself; I didn’t want my hearing loss to become a barrier between me and my wife and me and my children. Now, I have state-of-the-art Miracle-Ear hearing aids to make sure I can keep those lines of communication open.

Whether you’re discussing strategies for the next Elite event, or teaching that grandchild how to cast; being able to effectively communicate with the ones closest to you is something worth protecting.