5 Important Signs of Hearing Loss You Shouldn’t Ignore
Hearing loss happens slowly for most people who experience it. And, while age is often cited as a contributing factor, hearing loss is not limited to older people or the aging process – it can happen to anyone at any age.
Unfortunately, diminished hearing is a common problem. According to the American Academy of Audiology, hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States, after heart disease and arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 48 million people in the U.S. have trouble hearing with one or both ears.
In spite of this, only an estimated 20% of U.S. adults who might benefit from hearing treatment seek help for hearing loss. Left untreated, any degree of impairment can greatly reduce the quality of life and can be incredibly isolating, leading to a decline both mentally and physically.
Hearing loss could stem from a variety of reasons – age, ear infections or disease, family history, and a range of other health conditions. If you’re concerned a friend or loved one’s hearing health might be fading, or that they struggle with some level of hearing loss, look for these five typical signs.
1. Say it Again
“What did you say?” “Can you please repeat that?” “Pardon?” If you find your loved one frequently asking others to repeat what they’ve said, speak more clearly, or talk louder, perhaps it’s their hearing that needs to be checked.
A frequent failure to respond to spoken words, avoiding conversation, or recurrent comments that others are “mumbling” or need to “speak more clearly” might indicate a hearing problem. Continual difficulty in understanding spoken words, mishearing words, or asking others to slow down their conversation in person or on the telephone could indicate some hearing loss.
2. Volume Up, Up, Up
Constantly needing to dial up the volume on a TV, CD player, smartphone, or other electrical gadgets to such a level the neighbors can hear (or complain about) might be another red flag. If others complain that the volume is way too loud for their comfort, or suggest the volume should be turned way down, it might indicate a potential hearing loss.
Continually cranking up the volume to higher-than-normal settings to hear better is a hack many with hearing loss use. Consequently, continuously listening to anything at a high volume can further damage your ears by causing your eardrums to vibrate.
3. Trouble Understanding Others
Higher-pitched or softer sounds, like female and child voices, might be particularly difficult for someone with hearing loss to figure out. Other higher-pitched sounds, like birds chirping or the ding on a microwave, are types of tones that may sound especially muddled to those with high-frequency hearing loss, one of the most common forms of hearing loss.
If your loved one can readily hear a BOOM of thunder or has no trouble at all understanding lower-pitched voices, but regularly can’t quite make out the higher-pitched sounds of daily life, their hearing could be an issue.
Or if they mishear your word for a similar-sounding word (thing cash/hash) you should watch their hearing closely. Other frequently misheard words in early hearing loss are: “this” “house” “such” and “first”. When someone is mishearing words regularly and is suffering from headaches (a sign of strain) you should not ignore that warning sign.
4. Rely heavily on the lips
Does your loved one watch the speaker’s lips move instead of making eye contact during a conversation? If so, they may be looking for additional queues to figure out just what’s being said. Often, the person might be able to hear that the person is speaking to them, but not quite be able to make out what words are actually being said, making it difficult to distinguish or respond to the dialog without watching the talker’s lips.
Combining diminished hearing with speechreading can help boost conversational comprehension. If you’re noticing the primary way they interact when people talk is to watch lips and speech read, it may be indicative of a coping skill for hearing loss.
5. Withdrawal from Social Situations
Hearing loss can be subtle if someone you know has no problem hearing you when you’re home in a quiet spot but struggles when in a crowded area or when there is background noise, that can be an early indicator of some degree of hearing loss and is worth checking out.
Is the person exhausted after attending events, not because of physical exertion, but because of the strain of trying to decipher conversation in a loud or noisy listening environment? Excessive background noise can make it extremely tough for those in a restaurant, theater, automobile, or a party setting to accurately make out the words in a conversation.
Concentrating to hear over extreme ambient noise, like at a wedding with a live band playing, could be a struggle to sustain over several hours. Often, these types of settings bring mental fatigue, loss of confidence, and distress to social interactions since the individual can’t easily pick out the words being said.
Many people with hearing loss eventually start to avoid or heavily limit social situations that were once enjoyable out of the embarrassment of how noisy places impede their hearing. Social isolation is increasingly common in those who are afraid of not hearing well enough to contribute. Or to those who don’t want to look silly by saying the wrong thing to something they misheard.
Hearing loss can progress over time and untreated hearing loss can diminish the quality of life. If you recognize any of these signs of hearing loss, encourage your loved one to talk to a qualified health care professional about a hearing test for their situation – and seek prompt treatment or call 9-1-1 if hearing loss happens suddenly.
The sooner hearing loss is detected the better. It’s possible to offset further complications from hearing loss if treated with hearing aids as early as possible. If you know someone who has one of two signs of hearing loss mentioned here, it’s time to get their hearing tested.