First established by the American Academy of Audiology in 2008, October is Audiology Awareness Month. It marks a desire to heighten awareness about not only general hearing health, but why hearing protection is so vital to the many people who spend time in noisy environments.

Thus, the turn to autumn is a moment to take stock of one’s hearing and start making plans for the coming year. And given the challenge of COVID-19, many health issues have taken a backseat to the pandemic — and now need to be addressed.

Hearing loss often doesn’t just happen like a light switch being turned on and off. In fact, it’s usually gradual enough to sneak up on you. The slowness of the process can make it easy to subconsciously compensate for it — or just procrastinate while not compensating much at all.

This is why, if there’s any doubt about how you’re currently hearing, being examined by a hearing professional should find a place on your schedule. The reality is that one out of eight people over the age of 12 have some degree of hearing loss. It’s not exactly a rarity.

Rather, it’s a reality that is only getting more pronounced. This is in part due to the everyday loudness of modern life. From urban dwellers commuting on mass transit to suburbanites running leaf blowers to rural folks hunting with guns — and almost everyone under a certain age having earbuds plugged into their ears for extended periods of time — there are plenty of culprits in the bombardment of modern ears.

Even if you haven’t noticed any hearing loss yet, wearing ear protection — and realizing that headphones and earbuds are a well-established risk factor for later issues — is a good first step.