Nearly 1 in 5 people have some degree of hearing loss. Impacting over 48 million people, hearing loss is a pervasive health issue that people experience today. Though it is common, it is widely undertreated. In fact, it takes an average of 7 years for people to address their hearing loss symptoms. Untreated hearing loss can affect health and quality of life in significant ways. It can strain communication which is an essential way we navigate daily life. This can take a toll on relationships, social life, work, and increase health risks. Knowing more about the early signs of hearing loss can help you identify any change you’re experiencing to your hearing health, supporting early intervention.
What is hearing loss?
Hearing loss is a medical condition that reduces one’s ability to hear and process speech as well as sound. This can be caused by several factors including: exposure to loud noise, aging, existing medical conditions, inner ear disorders, and head injuries. Most commonly, hearing loss occurs when the sensory cells in the inner ear are damaged. There are thousands of sensory cells in the cochlea and these cells play a major role in how sound is processed. These cells convert incoming soundwaves into electrical signals which get sent to the brain. The brain continues processing these signals, including assigning meaning to them which allows us to understand what we hear. When these sensory cells are damaged, their capacity to effectively process incoming soundwaves is reduced which disrupts this process and results in chronic hearing loss.
What are early signs of hearing loss?
Hearing loss typically occurs gradually so people may not immediately be aware of it. Unfortunately, it is when hearing loss becomes more advanced that people often identify the changes to their hearing health. This contributes to delayed treatment which can worsen hearing loss and the many symptoms it produces. Being able to recognize early signs can better help you intervene and seek treatment. Early signs include the following:
- Tinnitus: a ringing or buzzing noise heard in one or both ears that only you can hear. Tinnitus is a common symptom of hearing loss, it is estimated that 90% of cases of tinnitus occur with underlying hearing loss.
- Struggling to follow a conversation: you may experience a tough time following a conversation, especially in environments with background noise – restaurants, parties etc. You may miss certain parts of the conversation, not hear words, and feel confused.
- Turning up the volume on the TV: frequently increasing the volume on your TV (or other electronic devices like your phone) is another common sign of hearing loss. This may involve arguing with loved ones about the volume of the TV because they think it’s too loud.
- Tired after noisy events: you may experience fatigue after conversations, social interactions, and being in spaces with background noise. This is because your brain has to work harder to hear in these settings. It takes greater energy to filter through this background noise to pay attention to the sounds (like speech) that you want to hear.
- Lip reading: this is a common strategy people with hearing loss use which is to read lips to help identify individual words. It becomes harder to hear each word so reading lips can be a way to help distinguish words and better follow what a person is saying.
These signs indicate hearing loss and to better understand where your hearing health is, it is important to have your hearing comprehensively assessed by a hearing healthcare specialist.
How is hearing loss diagnosed and treated?
There are different tests that are used to diagnose hearing loss. Conducted by a specialist (like an audiologist), hearing tests involve a painless process that measures your hearing capacity in each ear. This identifies any hearing loss and the degree of impairment you are experiencing in each ear. Once your hearing needs are established, your hearing healthcare provider is able to tailor treatment to meet your specific needs. The most common way hearing loss is treated is with hearing aids which are electronic devices that are designed to absorb, amplify, adn process speech as well as sound. This alleviates symptoms and maximizes hearing capacity, making it easier to hear. Hearing aids provide significant support, allowing people to better hear in everyday settings. Treatment offers countless benefits including strengthening communication, improving relationships, enriching social life, and improving overall health and wellness.
Prioritize your hearing health today by contacting us to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation!