What is Hearing Loss?
One in six adults will experience some degree of hearing loss in their lifetime.
Every experience involves the many sounds that take place around you. You could be in a busy restaurant, chairs moving, people talking, dishes clattering. However, you could be struggling to hear these noises around you and straining to follow what is happening at your table. The effort starts to make you feel tired.
You start to feel left out and eventually pretend you can hear. You may nod, look interested, even laugh with everyone around you even if you don't understand a joke. It ultimately creates a disappointing experience that leave you tired and frustrated.
Recognize the Signs of Hearing Loss
How can you tell if you are suffering from hearing loss or starting to experience hearing loss? There are several signs:
- Does it feel like people around you are mumbling or speaking softly?
- Are conversations in crowded places like restaurants difficult?
- Do you constantly need to increase the volume on the television, phone or radio?
- Do your family and friends complain that they have to repeat what they say to you?
- Do you have to look at another person's face just to understand what they are saying?
- Are everyday sounds like birds chirping, footsteps or a clock ticking starting to disappear?
Hearing Loss Differs from Vision Loss
Hearing loss, like vision loss, is typically caused as a result of aging. However, there are several differences between hearing loss and vision loss.Vision loss typically makes reading gradually harder as letters become smaller. Hearing loss can make certain sounds or syllables more difficult to hear. One example is that high-pitched consonants like f, s and t are more easily drowned out by vowels that are louder and lower-pitched like a, o and u. A person experiencing this problem may complain that they hear someone else talking, but not what they are saying.
Symptoms of Hearing Loss
We will seat you in a sound booth (the best environment for testing), explain the tests to you, and position your earphones.
A series of tones is presented from low to high pitches to achieve thresholds of each ear. Thresholds are the softest levels detectable. Competent examiners will assess several tones (250, 500, 1000, 1500, 2000, 3000, 4000, 6000, and 8000 Hz) to get a better understanding of your hearing loss configuration.
Each of your ears must be assessed separately for accurate results.
What Causes Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can result from the effects of age, but that is not always the case. Hearing loss can also be caused by injury, infection or birth defects.
Age-related Hearing Loss
The ability to hear softer, high-pitched sounds can decrease as we get older. It may be easier to live without some everyday sounds, but the building blocks of speech are essentially and can make hearing loss a challenge.
Age-related hearing loss is caused by the daily wear-and-tear that takes place on the hearing system throughout the course of one's lifetime. The most common symptoms of this type of hearing loss is trouble understanding and hearing soft voices or hearing conversation when background noise is present.
Family members tend to notice the symptoms of age-related hearing loss before the person affected by the condition.
Noise-induced Hearing Loss
This type of hearing loss is caused by overexposure to excessive noise. People who work in high-volume settings or around noisy machinery like military, police officers, construction workers, factory workers, farmers, dentists and kindergarten teachers are most at risk.
Exposing your hearing system to loud events like rock concerts and sporting events or using excessive volume on devices like MP3 players are also at risk of damaged hearing. With more regular and frequent exposure to loud noise, hearing loss becomes accelerated. It is important to use ear protectors if you are exposed to excessing noise.
Types of Hearing Loss
Outer and Middle Ear Hearing Loss (Conductive)
Conductive hearing loss is caused when problems occur with the outer and middle ear. This can prevent sound from getting through the inner ear. The most common cause of this type of hearing loss can be a buildup of wax in the ear canal, perforated eardrums, fluid in the middle ear or damage to middle ear bones, also known as ossicles.
Inner Ear Hearing Loss (Sensorineural)
Sensorineural hearing loss happens when damage occurs to the delicate nerve fibers in the inner ear. This stops the inner ear from being able to transmit sound properly. This type of hearing loss can be caused by exposure to excessive noise levels, however, the more common cause is from the natural processes of aging. This condition is permanent in most cases.
Do Something About Hearing Loss Trying to convince a loved one to get help with their hearing loss can be a difficult and trying task. People experiencing the early stages and symptoms of hearing loss will often be in denial.
So how can you try to convince them to get help?
Show them the benefits of hearing instruments - There are many benefits to using hearing instruments to improve hearing quality and regain lost sound. It adds to everyday life by allowing you to spend less energy on straining to hear and get more enjoyment out of everyday sounds, conversations, social activities and more. Using a hearing instrument can also aid in prevention of other more serious conditions that can result from not treating hearing loss, such as anxiety, depression or dementia.
A good way to start communicating benefits of hearing instruments is to have your loved one have a face-to-face conversation with someone who is already using a hearing instrument and can share their successes with their device and what it is like to live with one. You can also do research online or contact a hearing care professional to ask questions.
Stage an intervention - Sometimes getting the message and benefits of a hearing instrument across to a loved one may take more than just one person. It can be difficult to get through to someone experiencing some denial over hearing loss, so enlist the help of other family members to try to help.
Go from awareness to wholeness - Awareness is typically the most difficult part. Once you're able to connect with your loved one and reach the awareness stage, it is important to keep progress moving in getting your loved one evaluated and fitted for a hearing instrument by a hearing care professional. By getting evaluation results, there is little room for denial and at that point the adjustment process should begin. Make sure you are aware of the steps involved, set expectations for your loved one accordingly and keep the vision in sight that the quality of life will be better in every way for both your loved one and everyone in the family.