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Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013

Understanding Hearing Loss

Couple with bullhorn learns to understand hearing loss.

Hearing loss is a sudden or gradual decrease in a person’s ability to detect sounds, pitch, frequency, or words. It is a common problem and can be related to aging, noise, disease, or heredity. Although hearing is complicated, People Hearing Better has broken down the basics to help you better understand hearing loss.

What are the Different Types of Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is categorized according to the part of the ear it affects. There are three main types of hearing loss—sensorineural (inner ear damage), conductive (outer or middle ear damage), and mixed (a combination of inner, and outer or middle ear damage).

What are the Different Degrees of Hearing Loss?

The loudness of sounds is defined in terms of a scale of decibels dB. How well you hear is determined by the lowest to highest threshold of decibels that you can perceive at different frequencies (the number of waves a sound produces per second.)

o Normal Hearing (-10 to +15 dB)
o Mild Hearing Loss (16 to 40 dB)
o Moderate Hearing Loss (41 to 55 dB)
o Moderate-Severe Hearing Loss (56 to 70 dB)
o Severe Hearing Loss (71 to 90 dB)
o Profound Hearing Loss (91+ dB)

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Hearing Loss?

Television Volume--Needing to turn the television up louder than others say is comfortable can be a sign of hearing loss.

Tinnitus-- A ringing or buzzing in the ears that can be high pitched, intermittent or constant. It might also be a symptom of things other than hearing loss.

Inability to Hear High-Pitched Sounds-- A phone ringing, a child's cry, the trill of a bird are high-pitched sounds that can begin to fade as a person develops hearing loss. Missing phone calls or struggling to hear any high-pitched sounds is an immediate warning sign of hearing loss.

Asking to Have Things Repeated-- Having to frequently ask people to repeat things can be embarrassing. This discomfort means that people can ignore this sign of hearing loss or try to cover it up. If your loved one asks you to repeat parts of conversations or responds inappropriately to things said, it is time to see an audiologist about this sign of hearing loss.

Inability to Hear Female or Child Voices--Females and children speak in a higher register, so one of the first signs of hearing loss is the inability to hear these higher pitched voices. If you or your loved one consistently feels that women or children are mumbling around you, see an audiologist, because this is a sign of hearing loss.

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. This sign of hearing loss can have an impact on mental well-being.

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 sign of hearing loss goes recognized.

Signs of Hearing Loss
Signs of hearing loss are more subtle, but can also help people to understand the condition and to recognize it in themselves and others.

Lip Reading:
 Lip reading is a subtle habit that people who have hearing loss develop almost unconsciously.
Volume Manipulation:
 Hiring the television volume may seem like harmless habit, but it can be a sign of hearing loss.
Overcompensation: 
Speaking too loudly, laughing when uncertain, and misreading social cues are all signs of hearing loss.
Pretense:
 Smiling, nodding, or pretending to understand what has been said.
Isolation: 
Withdrawing from social and everyday experiences in order to avoid having to deal with not being able to hear or understand people.

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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