Hearing loss impacts over 48 million people in the U.S. Nearly 1 in 6 people live with some degree of impaired hearing. Though hearing loss is the third most pervasive medical condition people experience today, it is often undertreated. A common factor that leads to a delay in treatment is that hearing loss often happens gradually. So changes to hearing health may remain unnoticed for quite some time. This highlights the importance of being able to recognize the signs of hearing loss which can help you intervene early.
What causes hearing loss?
Several factors can contribute to the development of hearing loss. Common causes include the following:
- Aging: age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, disproportionately impacts older adults. Half of the adults who are 75 and older have hearing loss. This can be due to a combination of reasons including changes to the ears people can experience over time, the cumulative impact of noise exposure, as well as having other medical conditions which increase the risk of hearing loss.
- Loud noise: time or consistent exposure to loud noise can damage the hair cells in the inner ear. These sensory cells send auditory information to the brain which then processes and assigns meaning to the sound we hear. Loud noise can desensitize these hair cells, preventing them from performing their essential function.
- Medical conditions: research shows that numerous medical conditions can increase the risk of hearing loss. This includes cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes which impact blood flow. Restricted blood flow throughout the body and specifically in the inner ear can impact the various areas that are critical to absorbing and processing sound.
Other causes of hearing loss include inner ear disorders, autoimmune conditions, head injuries, and chronic ear infections. If you recognize these signs in yourself or a loved one, contact us today! We offer comprehensive hearing health services and we’re here to help you on your journey to better hearing.
What are common signs of hearing loss?
Hearing loss reduces a person’s capacity to perceive and process speech as well as sound. This makes it challenging to hear, producing a range of symptoms including:
- Tinnitus, commonly referred to as “ringing in the ears”, is a buzzing or ringing-like noise in one or both ears.
- Sounds are slurred, muffled, and distorted.
- Increasing the volume on the television and/or other electronic devices.
- Frequently asking others to speak louder, slower, and/or repeat themselves.
- Being able to hear more clearly out of one ear compared to the other.
- Missing words or parts of a conversation
- Lip reading to help identify individual words
These symptoms can be experienced mildly to more severe depending on the degree of hearing loss that is present.
Helpful questions to ask yourself
It is also helpful to think about your hearing and communication in specific situations and environments you are in. A few questions to reflect on are:
- Do you struggle to keep up with conversations?
- Do you find yourself pretending to hear to get through a conversation?
- Is it difficult to hear in noisy places like restaurants or at parties?
- Do you find yourself saying “huh” or “what” when responding to others?
- Do you often feel left out of conversations or social settings?
- Are you spending less time engaging in the activities you love and/or spending time with loved ones?
If you respond yes to these questions, you should have your hearing tested as soon as possible. These are signs that you are experiencing impaired hearing and the symptoms that often strain communication.
Treating hearing loss
Treating hearing loss is a noninvasive and relatively smooth process. The first step is to have your hearing assessed by a hearing healthcare specialist. Hearing tests are a painless way of evaluating your hearing abilities in each ear. Your hearing capacity is measured which identifies any hearing loss as well as the degree of impaired hearing you could be experiencing. Once your hearing needs are established, this information informs the type of treatment that would best meet those needs.
The most common way that hearing loss is treated is with hearing aids. These are electronic devices that are equipped with the technology to absorb, amplify, and process sound. This provides the ears and brain with significant support, making it much easier to hear and understand speech as well as sound. Hearing aids alleviate symptoms and maximize one’s hearing capacity. This offers countless benefits including strengthening communication, supporting social engagement, improving relationships, as well as overall health and wellness.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation appointment.