Over 48 million people experience hearing loss – a chronic medical condition that reduces one’s ability to hear and process speech as well as sound. Though nearly 1 in 5 people have some degree of impaired hearing, hearing loss still remains undertreated. Symptoms can remain unnoticed for quite some time which contributes to a delay in treatment. Being aware of early signs of hearing loss can help you identify any changes you may experience to your hearing health over time which supports early intervention. A common sign is experiencing challenges with communicating and navigating conversations.
What Causes Hearing Loss?
Several factors can contribute to the development of hearing loss. A few of the most common causes include:
- Aging: the risk of developing hearing loss increases with age. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 1 in 3 adults, ages 65-74, have some degree of hearing loss. This increases to 1 in 2 adults, ages 75 and older, who have disabling hearing loss. Age related hearing loss, known as presbycusis, can be caused by a range of factors including the cumulative impact of loud noise exposure, changes to the ear that may happen over time, and existing medical conditions that are linked to hearing loss and also impact older adults disproportionately.
- Loud noise: one time or consistent exposure to loud noise can irreparably damage hearing health by impairing the sensory cells in the inner ear. Loud noise can desensitize and weaken these cells, preventing them from processing incoming soundwaves effectively. This results in the brain receiving less auditory information, producing hearing loss.
- Medical conditions: extensive research shows that a number of medical conditions can increase the risk of hearing loss. This includes cardiovascular disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, and diabetes. These conditions can impact blood flow, blood vessels, and bone health which are all part of how sound is absorbed and processed.
Other causes of hearing loss include head injuries, inner ear disorders, chronic ear infections, adn autoimmune conditions.
Difficulties Communicating – an early sign of hearing loss?
Hearing loss typically occurs gradually so people may not notice symptoms for quite some time. In fact, it takes an average of 7 years for people to address their hearing loss symptoms. This can worsen hearing loss and the toll it often takes on relationships, social life, and health. Being able to identify symptoms can help you intervene early. Early signs of hearing loss include struggling to navigate conversations, you may experience:
- Tinnitus: a buzzing or ringing noise in one or both ears that only you can hear.
- Sounds are slurred or distorted.
- Keeping up with conversations, especially in environments with background noise (like restaurants) is especially challenging.
- You frequently ask others to repeat what they said, speak louder, and/or slower.
- You find yourself responding with “huh” or “what” often.
- Lip reading to help identify individual words.
- Feeling confused or lost during conversations.
- Needing to move to a quieter space to be able to hear.
- Having conversations over the phone is especially difficult.
- You feel tired or drained after conversations and social interactions.
These symptoms can be mild to more severe, depending on the degree of hearing loss you are experiencing. This can take a toll on communication, making conversations difficult to engage in. To cope, people often avoid conversations as much as possible. Social withdrawal is a major symptom of hearing loss. This includes spending less time with loved ones and avoiding social activities. If you recognize any of these symptoms, it is important to have your hearing health evaluated soon.
Diagnosing & Treating Hearing Loss?
It is important to know that there are effective hearing solutions and resources you can access to transform your hearing health. This starts by having your hearing assessed by a hearing healthcare specialist. Hearing tests involve a painless and noninvasive process that measures your hearing capacities and identifies your hearing needs. Hearing aids are the most common treatment – these are electronic devices that provide ample support. Treatment not only strengthens hearing and communication but also relationships, social life, adn overall health.
You can prioritize your hearing health with one simple step: scheduling an appointment for a hearing test. Contact us to get started!
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