If you think you might have hearing loss but aren’t ready to take action on it, you are one of many in the same situation. The average person waits seven years from the moment they first notice their hearing loss until they actually do something about it.
What can explain this length of time before treatment? It’s not like someone with diabetes or high blood pressure would wait that long before doing something. It’s because hearing loss takes a while before its symptoms become known. These signs can be very subtle, and you might not notice you are losing your hearing.
To work out whether you might have hearing loss, here are some of the most common signs:
You turn up the TV louder than your family wants it
Family and friends are usually the first to notice some difficulty hearing, long before the individual notices themselves. It doesn’t matter if you are watching TV, listening to music, or talking on the phone. While the noise level might seem perfectly normal for you, those around you might disagree. This is a sign that your level of hearing is lower than others around you.
You find it hard to follow conversation in busy spaces and restaurants
A very common problem that people with hearing loss face is the finding it difficult to comprehend speech in noisy environments including public places, large family dinners, or even in the car. Having trouble differentiating who’s speaking to you in a noisy environment might mean is likely to be an early sign of hearing loss.
Why does this happen? Background noise in busy public places is generally low-pitched, while many consonants, such as “f” and “s,” are located in the higher registers. Those with hearing loss tend to lose their ability to hear higher frequencies first. This means that background noise will appear louder than the speech of people close by. A loss of the ability to hear higher frequency sounds also explains why individuals may find it tougher to understand the words of women and children.
You believe that others mumble
People with hearing loss will lose the ability to hear many things as their hearing loss develops, but they are not going to complain about them as they can’t hear them. They will however, notice when they don’t understand speech. This explains the popular complaint that they ‘can hear but can’t understand.’ If you feel that everyone is mumbling nowadays, it’s a sign that the problem may lie closer to home.
You get tired after socializing
For the listener with normal hearing, ear cells send clear auditory information to the brain seamlessly, helping the individual understand words perfectly and making communication effortless.
But, with the addition of hearing loss, gaps appear in the sentences understood by others. The brain has to work, think and concentrate harder than it would with normal hearing and this synergy between ear and brain is disrupted, increasing the challenges of communication and leading to listening fatigue. If you find yourself really having to concentrate and getting exhausted while doing so, it could be a sign you are losing your hearing.
Treat your hearing loss early
When hearing loss is not treated early enough, the nerve which transports sound from the ear to the brain, in addition to the part of the brain which has the job of understanding speech, are being used less frequently than they were when the hearing was normal. Known as auditory deprivation, the longer that these structures remain under-utilized, the more difficult it becomes to understand future speech and the lower the chances of success we have with hearing aids.
It is tough to restore this ability to understand speech. Therefore, we should be vigilant to the early signs of hearing loss in order to preserve our hearing. The use of hearing aids helps us use the hearing nerve and the brain regularly, so that there is less chance that they will atrophy. It really is a case of ‘use it or lose it’. Once hearing loss has occurred, we can’t reverse the damage. But we can make sure that we can still benefit from hearing aids. Don’t wait until it is too late to discover the signs that you might need them.