Difficulties with Communication Could Signal a Hearing Loss

In Communication, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Research by Bary E. Williams Au.D.

Do you struggle to hear when someone’s speaking to you? Can you hear the phone ringing, or your spouse calling to you from another room? If you have hearing loss, you know that it’s affecting communication. Even simple conversations can lead to misunderstandings, and you have to ask for clarification at least once. Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal to you right now, but living with untreated hearing loss will create problems in both your professional and personal life as communication continues to deteriorate.


Often, we give little thought to the sounds around us until one day we notice people are mumbling, or family members complain that the television is too loud. People may see this as their loved ones struggle with simple spoken directions or have poor listening skills. Before you shrug it off as old age, it is important to realize that there may be something more serious going on.


We hear with our brains, not our ears. How our brains process and interpret sounds does affect how we hear. Many things can have an impact on a person’s ability to understand and thus, communicate. The degree of hearing loss may be gradual or very sudden. It might affect one ear or both. It can also be temporary or permanent.


Different Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss has a lot of different causes and manifestations. It can be sudden or gradual. It can occur in one ear or both ears. It can be temporary or permanent. There can be underlying medical issues or more common age-related changes.  The majority of hearing loss can be classified as Sensorineural or Conductive.


Sensorineural Hearing Loss

This type of hearing loss that is due to problems of the inner ear or the auditory nerve. Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) can be a function of the normal aging process, noise exposure or as a result of medical conditions. This permanent type of hearing loss accounts for majority of patients who use hearing aids.


Sensorineural hearing loss, depending on the severity, can be more difficult to treat due to the location of the damage. When dealing with a SNHL we must look at two components: the severity of the loss across the spectrum of sound and how that loss affects a patient’s communication.  These two aspects do not always affect the patient in a predictable pattern. Even if a SNHL remains stable over many years, speech comprehension can decline as a result of lack of stimulation. It is for this reason that pursuing hearing health options is always advocated as a “sooner, rather than later” healthcare option.


Conductive Hearing Loss

This type of hearing loss that is due to a functional abnormality that does not allow normal sound transmission to the inner ear. Common causes of conductive hearing loss include: Cerumen (Ear Wax) blockage, fluid buildup in the middle ear space (possible ear infection), perforation of the eardrum or abnormality/defect with the bones of the middle ear. Conductive hearing loss (CHL), in many cases, is treatable by medical or surgical intervention.


When a Conductive hearing loss cannot be medically treated or shows to be a chronic issue, hearing help is often a treatment option. Unlike a SNHL, there is no permanent damage to the inner ear or hearing nerve with a CHL alone. Due to the inner ear/nerve being intact, patients with a CHL often have an easier transition to amplification. Once we are able to overcome the functional abnormality, the system can process sound in a more normal process. CHL is thought to be more of a “volume” rather than a “processing” issue.


Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss

The average American waits 5 to 7 years to treat their hearing loss, jeopardizing their hearing health and experiencing isolation and depression. Wearing hearing aids gives you back your hearing, allowing you to participate in every day conversation again. Hearing aids reduce anxiety, prevent depression, and keep people socially active. By restoring communication, wearing hearing devices improve relationships at home and at work, create self-confidence, and reestablish independence. Keep or improve your quality of life with a hearing test. If you are struggling to hear and have noticed problems communicating, seek the professional services of our team at Exceptional Hearing Care. Don’t take chances with the quality of your life and your hearing health!

Bary E. Williams Au.D.
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