Hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the United States, affecting approximately 20% of the population regardless of age. Though one in three people over the age of 65 experience hearing loss, it does appear in younger populations as well. For this reason, hearing specialists recommend scheduling an annual hearing test from the time you are 55.
This is an important annual test because hearing loss occurs gradually and is often overlooked. In fact, it is estimated that people wait an average of seven years from the time they first experience changes in their hearing abilities to the time they decide to take a hearing test. During this period of time, there could be many adverse consequences, from withdrawing socially to performing poorly in the workplace.
But if hearing loss is invisible, how can we identify it? Here are a few signs that will help you identify hearing loss.
A common complaint among people with hearing loss is “I can hear, but I can’t understand.” With hearing loss, you may still hear sounds, but they simply will not be as clear as before. The experience of hearing loss has been described as muffled, or “having cotton in the ears.” This goes for sounds that are far away or up close.
Some people may react to early signs of hearing loss by turning up the volume on the radio and TV and other personal electronic devices. If people in your family have complained about how loud the sound is when you’re watching a movie or listening to the radio in the car, you might be experiencing hearing loss. Loudness doesn’t help with clarity, however. Some people may sleep through their alarms, some may miss their phone ringing if it’s in a bag, while others may strain to hear conversations through the phone – even if the volume is turned all the way up.
Difficulties with Speech Recognition
Hearing loss interferes with our ability to recognize speech. Depending on the environment, certain conversations may be more complicated than others. For example, group conversations with multiple speakers in a loud environment are especially difficult for people who struggle with hearing loss.
The environment also makes a difference. Large public spaces, such as public transportation hubs, atriums, concert halls, and auditoriums tend to pose a great difficulty for people with hearing loss. Cavernous spaces have difficult acoustics, making sounds less clear. Directionality with hearing loss may also make it difficult to recognize speech – depending on where the speaker is. It may be difficult to hear someone behind you calling your name. It may help if people are face to face with you, as reading lips is a way to cope with hearing loss. If you’ve found yourself asking people to repeat themselves multiple times, this could be a sign of hearing loss.
Social and Emotional Changes
Hearing loss can be an incredibly isolating condition. With difficulties in speech recognition and picking up sounds in your natural environment, people with hearing loss tend to slowly withdraw from social engagement over time. There may be a struggle to communicate or a sense of awkwardness or discomfort in not being able to follow conversations.
Moreover, this leads to a higher risk for developing anxiety, stress and depression. Over time, untreated hearing loss could lead to sleep deprivation and problems with memory and concentration. These emotional responses to hearing loss could affect your friendships as well as your performance in the workplace.
Unfortunately, this social withdrawal – which increases the risk for depression, lack of activity, and engagement – is a major risk factor for developing dementia. If you’ve found yourself avoiding loved ones, activities you enjoy, and conversations with friends, this is an emotional sign of hearing loss. Similarly, if your loved one has been avoidant lately, or less engaging than normal in conversation, this could be a sign they are experiencing hearing loss.
Visit Us at Accurate Hearing Systems
Do you experience any of the above signs of hearing loss? Does someone you love experience these signs? The most important step you can take toward healthy hearing is to schedule a hearing test. Contact us at Accurate Hearing Systems to schedule a comprehensive hearing test. If a hearing loss is detected, our team will work with you to find a solution.