Hearing loss isn't always easy to recognize. People become conditioned to diminishing sounds and silence is less abrasive then noise, so its presence goes unnoticed. The top warning signs of hearing loss might surprise you, as might the number one cause of hearing loss.
The number one cause of hearing loss is noise, Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). There are many seemingly harmless things people do, like listening to their iPod with ear-buds on and the volume too high that can harm hearing. Because NIHL is the only kind of preventable hearing loss and because it is on the rise among all age groups, the things you can do to protect your ears and the ears of a loved one—like making sure to have an annual hearing exam, are very important. It's also important to become familiar with the top warning signs of hearing loss.
Silence is less noticeable than sound, so hearing loss often goes unrecognized by those who have it until it is pointed out by a loved one.
Tinnitus-- a ringing or buzzing in the ears that can be high pitched. It is sometimes accompanied by vertigo, and can be intermittent or steady.
Inability to hear female or child voices--Females and children speak in a higher register, so one of the first signs of hearing loss that is often dismissed is the inability to hear these higher pitched voices. If you consistently feel that women or children are mumbling around you, this is a warning sign you need to see your audiologist.
Television volume--Needing to turn the television up louder than others say is comfortable can be a sign of hearing loss. This is also the easiest sign to ignore as the person who does this is more likely to blame the television than their own ears.
Inability to hear high-pitched sounds--a phone ringing, a child's cry, the trill of a bird are all high-pitched sounds that can begin to fade as a person develops hearing loss. Missing phone calls or struggling to hear children or any high-pitched sounds should serve as an immediate warning sign of hearing loss. Overcoming the casual dismissal and denial of the warning signs of hearing loss is often the hardest part of recognizing it.
Asking to have things repeated--Having to ask people to repeat things can often be embarrassing and this discomfort means that people can ignore this sign of hearing loss. They don't wish to dwell on incidents that caused them embarrassment. If you find yourself missing parts of the conversation or responding inappropriately to things you misunderstand, it is time to see your audiologist.
Inability to understand in crowds--Not being able to hear what people are saying in a crowded restaurant or room is one of the most frustrating things about hearing loss. It is also why many people begin to avoid socializing. This withdraw can lead to depression and isolation.
Some sounds seem too loud--This may seem contrary to hearing loss, but this phenomena is due to the fact that other parts of hearing, different registers like high-pitched frequencies, are missing. Therefore when a register that is not missing travels to the ears, an individual with hearing loss is startled by the sound. It is not the silence they noticed, but the return of sound.
Depression--According to Dr. Claudia Dewane in her article Hearing Loss in Older Adults--Its Effect on Mental Health, "Hearing loss can create a psychological solitary confinement." This confinement can lead to feelings of depression that are quite often misconstrued, so that the cause--hearing loss, is not even recognized.
Forgetfulness--Research done on Alzheimer's and dementia show that there is an increased risk of these conditions if a person is suffering from hearing loss. According to Dr. Jonathan Peelle that's because, “Even subtle changes in hearing appear to have an impact on the brain.” This is yet another important reason to familiarize yourself and loved ones with the top signs of hearing loss.
Untreated hearing loss is tied to depression, lower quality of life, isolation, Alzheimer's, dementia, and loss of income, so it is important not only to protect hearing, but to correct hearing loss. Today's hearing instruments are vastly improved over those of the past, and as Dr. Megan Nightingale of Peninsula Hearing points out, "Overall customer satisfaction with new hearing instruments nationally is 77%." That means chances are excellent that a person with hearing loss can live a fully engaged and happy life after correcting hearing loss. What are you waiting for? To find a hearing health professional in your area, click on the green box below and get connected with the largest network of hearing health providers in the nation.