Difficulties with Communication Could Signal a Hearing Loss

In Communication by Bary E. Williams Au.D.

If you or a loved one are experiencing hearing loss, you may not know it—but you may have noticed other things that could in fact be signs of hearing loss. One way that you can pay attention to your hearing health is to pay attention to any potential changes in communication style, and paying special attention to when and where communication feels especially difficult. In fact, difficulty communicating is one of the many signs of hearing loss.

Recognizing the Signs of Hearing Loss

One of the reasons that it can be difficult to know whether hearing loss is at play is because the cause of hearing loss can be subtle. Hearing loss can occur because of biological reasons, but it can also occur because of environmental issues. Sometimes hearing loss occurs as the result of sudden exposure to extremely loud sounds like explosions or gunfire. It can also occur, however, from long-term exposure to sustained noise, as often happens for people who work in places like factories where there the loud sounds of large machinery and equipment can be droning. Recent studies have shown that prolonged used of in-ear headphones can cause hearing loss. In these situations where there is prolonged exposure to noise levels that produce hearing loss, it can actually be quite difficult to track the fact that hearing loss has even occurred.

One way you can monitor whether you are experiencing hearing loss is to pay attention to how you hear in group settings or in places where there are many different people and noises (like at restaurants and cafes). You may be experiencing hearing loss if you find it difficult to create hierarchies of the sounds that surround you; the sounds of the person speaking right in front of you may be at the same level as the sounds of the dishwasher in the back of the restaurant. Hearing loss can also impact your communication in more direct settings, where you are engaging with people one-on-one. If you are experiencing hearing loss, you may be able to hear the people who are talking to you, but you may find it difficult to understand the individual words that they are saying. You may find yourself frequently asking them to repeat themselves.

This is all to say that, if you are experiencing untreated hearing loss you may often feel like you are lost in conversation, or like you cannot keep up with what is happening around you. You may also feel like you do not want to contribute to conversation at all. This may be because you are unsure of what is being said or because you are unsure of the tone that people are using, so you’re unsure of how to respond. Similarly, you may feel unsure of how loudly or softly people are talking, making you anxious about responding and not matching volume levels.

The Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss

Untreated hearing loss can make people withdraw from their social life and their work environments, and has been linked to depression and anxiety. When we cannot hear the complexity of our surroundings, it can lead to acutely disconnected from the places we live in, work at, and frequent every day. When this happens, we can feel increasingly disconnected from friends, loved ones, and coworkers. After a while, you may want to recede from public life altogether! This can have devastating effects on your well-being but also the health of your relationships. Difficulty communicating, in other words, can have lasting effects on mental health. There are documented links between untreated hearing and increased risks of physical problems, namely higher risks of falls and accidents, which can be especially dangerous for people who are older.

Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss

This is all to say that tracking your communication practices is an important part of paying attention to your hearing health and an important part of feeling connected to the people and places you love. The more aware you are of tracking your communication needs and/or the needs of loved ones experiencing hearing loss, the better equipped you will be to ensure that you are connected and enlivened by your surroundings.

Additionally, it is important to seek treatment for hearing loss. To learn more, contact us at Exceptional Hearing Care.

Bary E. Williams Au.D.
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