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Signs of Hearing Loss

THE SIGNS OF HEARING LOSS CAN BE SUBTLE AND EMERGE SLOWLY, OR THEY CAN BE SIGNIFICANT AND COME ON SUDDENLY. EITHER WAY, THERE ARE COMMON INDICATIONS.

DON’T BE LEFT IN THE DARK!

YOU SHOULD SUSPECT HEARING LOSS IF YOU EXPERIENCE ANY OF THE SIGNS BELOW.

You might have hearing loss if you . . .

Socially:

  • require frequent repetition.
  • have difficulty following conversations involving more than 2 people.
  • think that other people sound muffled or like they’re mumbling.
  • have difficulty hearing in noisy situations, like conferences, restaurants, malls, or crowded meeting rooms.
  • have trouble hearing children and women.
  • have your TV or radio turned up to a high volume.
  • answer or respond inappropriately in conversations.
  • have ringing in your ears.
  • read lips or more intently watch people’s faces when they speak with you.

Emotionally:

  • feel stressed out from straining to hear what others are saying.
  • feel annoyed at other people because you can’t hear or understand them.
  • feel embarrassed to meet new people or from misunderstanding what others are saying.
  • feel nervous about trying to hear and understand.
  • withdraw from social situations that you once enjoyed because of difficulty hearing.

Medically:

  • have a family history of hearing loss.
  • take medications that can harm the hearing system (ototoxic drugs).
  • have diabetes, heart, circulation or thyroid problems.
  • have been exposed to very loud sounds over a long period or single exposure to explosive noise.

HEARING LOSS- The Prevalence of Hearing Loss

In order to gauge the number of people with hearing loss in the United States, 80,000 members of the National Family Opinion (NFO) panel were surveyed. This survey, which has been funded by a sponsor of BHI since 1989, is published under the name “MarkeTrak”. The NFO panel is representative of U.S. households.

People with hearing loss are often embarrassed because they think that they are different or that they have a rare condition. The last MarkeTrak survey (2004) estimated that 31.5 million people report a hearing difficulty; that is around 10% of the U.S. population. So if you have a hearing loss, understand that you are not alone. The number of people with hearing loss by age is provided in the graph above.

Here are some general guidelines regarding the incidence of hearing loss:

  • 3 in 10 people over age 60 have hearing loss;
  • 1 in 6 baby boomers (ages 41-59), or 14.6%, have a hearing problem;
  • 1 in 14 Generation Xers (ages 29-40), or 7.4%, already have hearing loss;
  • At least 1.4 million children (18 or younger) have hearing problems;
  • It is estimated that 3 in 1,000 infants are born with serious to profound hearing loss.

Common Myths about Audiology and Hearing Loss

Hearing loss affects only “old people” and is merely a sign of aging.
Actually it is the reverse of what most people think. The majority (65%) of people with hearing loss are younger than age 65. There are more than six million people in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 44 with hearing loss, and nearly one and a half million are school age. Hearing loss affects all age groups.

If I had a hearing loss, my family doctor would have told me.
Not true! Only 13% of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss during a physical. Since most people with hearing impairments hear well in a quiet environment like a doctor’s office, it can be virtually impossible for your physician to recognize the extent of your problem. Without special training, and an understanding of the nature of hearing loss, it may be difficult for your primary care physician to even realize that you have a hearing problem.

My hearing loss is normal for my age.
Isn’t this a strange way to look at things? But, do you realize that well-meaning doctors tell this to their patients every day? It happens to be “normal” for overweight people to have high blood pressure. That doesn’t mean they should not receive treatment for the problem.

Your hearing loss cannot be helped.
In the past, many people with hearing loss in one ear, with a high frequency hearing loss, or with nerve damage have all been told they cannot be helped, often by their family practice physician. This might have been true many years ago, but with modern advances in technology, nearly 95% of people with a sensorineural hearing loss CAN be helped with appropriately fit hearing aids.

I’ll just have some minor surgery like my friend did, and then my hearing will be okay.
Many people know someone whose hearing improved after medical or surgical treatment. It’s true that some types of hearing loss can be successfully treated. With adults, unfortunately, this only applies to 5-10% of cases.

I have one ear that’s down a little, but the other one’s okay.
Everything is relative. Nearly all patients who believe that they have one “good” ear actually have two “bad” ears. When one ear is slightly better than the other, we learn to favor that ear for the telephone, group conversations, and so forth. It can give the illusion that “the better ear” is normal when it isn’t. Most types of hearing loss affect both ears fairly equally, and about 90% of patients are in need of hearing aids for both ears.

The Degrees of Hearing Loss…….
Vary from Person to Person!

Between the two extremes of hearing well and hearing nothing, there are many degrees of impairment. The terms used to describe the degree of hearing loss are mild, moderate, severe and profound. Most hearing losses are mild to moderate.

What does the degree of hearing impairment mean?

Mild hearing loss:

Unable to hear soft sounds, difficulty perceiving speech in noisy environments.

Moderate hearing loss:

Unable to hear soft and moderately loud sounds, considerable difficulty in perceiving speech, particularly with background noise.

Severe hearing loss:

Speakers must raise their voice. Group conversation is possible only with considerable effort.

Profound hearing loss:

Some very loud sounds are audible but hearing conversation without a hearing instrument is impossible.

The impact of hearing loss on speech perception

Hearing loss in the inner ear (sensorineural hearing loss) mainly affects high frequency sounds. These high-pitched sounds such as “s,” “f,” “sh,” “t” play a key role in our ability to understand speech clearly. This is why a person with this type of hearing loss will often say, “I can hear but I don’t understand what is being said.”

Hearing loss drastically reduces the ability to understand speech.

Do you possibly have a hearing loss requiring referral for an objective hearing test and possible hearing solution? Click below to complete a quick hearing check.

Quick Hearing Check