In most cases, hearing loss doesn't occur all at once. It's not like one minute you hear fine and the next you're straining to hear the speaker standing right in front of you. No, in most cases, hearing loss is gradual. And cumulative.
It often occurs over time due to a combination of aging, genetics and repeat exposure to loud noise – and loud noise is everywhere today in this plugged in, revved up world in which we live. So, what if you've just started to notice a little less in the hearing department? Heck, you might not even be the first to notice a loss of hearing. So what can you do?
Learn about hearing loss, discover the signs of early hearing loss, undergo a hearing evaluation and get yourself fitted for a pair of ear gear (hearing aids) to help you get back into a rich, full life. You don't have to miss a thing.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Okay, if hearing loss doesn't hit you all at once, what do you look for? What are the early signs that you need to make an appointment with your audiologist or hearing aid practitioner for a hearing evaluation?
There are lots of small signals that indicate the start of hearing loss and it can start early – even in your teens if you ramp up the volume on that MP3 player.
One of the earliest signs that you've lost some of your hearing may come from a family member, a friend, a carpool buddy or the next door neighbor. You may not notice any loss of hearing but those around you may find that you're missing half the conversation – their half.
Have you been told by others that "you should have a hearing test"? Have you been told by more than one person? Yep, that's a good sign that there's something going on in there that needs some attention – like NOW.
Other signals that you're experiencing a mild loss of hearing?
- Do women and children sound muffled or as if they are mubling?
- Do you have difficulty hearing some of the words over your cell phone or home telephone?
- Do you have trouble hearing in large spaces like an auditorium or concert hall? That could well be a sign that something's amiss down there in your ear canal.
- Do you have problems hearing through background noise? We're surrounded by background noise – sounds we don't want to hear. It comes from car motors, the neighbor's lawn mower, and the patrons of a crowded restaurant or the rumble of the subway pulling into the station.
- Does noise "mask" the sounds you want or need to hear? You're watching the tube when your spouse makes a comment about getting the house painted. "Huh? What'd you say, dear?" Take it as a sign that you've lost some of your ability to hear.
- Ever hear ringing in your ears? This is a common phenomenon referred to as tinnitus. When you walk out of a rock concert, your ears might be ringing, but the ringing goes away after a day of two of recovery time. However, if that ringing is constant you have tinnitus which is a condition that affects millions of Americans. Tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss but can also be a sign of other damage to the auditory nerve.
- Is the volume on the TV slowly creeping up? Last year, a comfortable listening level was a setting of 8. This year, it's up to 15. Volume levels on the TV and radio are often good evidence that your hearing isn't what it used to be.
There are lots of signs and signals that indicate hearing loss. However, the most likely source of indications is you! You know you position yourself directly in front of the speaker to pick up visual clues from the lips. You have trouble hearing people on your cell – and you've got the volume maxxed out! You're the one who notices the little things that add up to one big conclusion.
Time to get your ears checked. The first step is to have a full hearing evaluation to determine type and degree of hearing loss. Based on the hearing test results, a hearing professional such as an audiologist or licensed hearing aid practitioner will be able to determine if you are a hearing aid candidate.
So you had your hearing tested. You're on the fence.
The hearing problem is there, you know that. But you also know that wearing hearing aids can be an investment and you aren't sure if you really need them yet. So you keep straining to hear the grandkids or your boss at work.
If you do experience mild hearing loss – hearing loss in the higher frequencies, for example – your hearing professional may simply recommend some changes in lifestyle to better help you adapt to hearing loss and experience less listening strain.
If you aren't ready for a technological solution, i.e. a pair of hearing aids, here are some recommendations that will help day to day:
- Be aware of loud noise situations and wear hearing protection to protect the hearing you have left.
- Position yourself directly in front of the speaker, especially when there's a lot of background noise. You can pick up visual cues and they do help in understanding what is being said.
- Don't hide hearing loss. Tell family, friends, co-workers and others that you got a hearing problem. No big deal. People will be glad to accommodate you.
- Ask people to look directly at you when they speak. (Remember, nothing to hide.)
- Eliminate background noise when you can. Hit the mute button on the TV remote when you talk so you can hear the response.
- Do NOT buy the cheap hearing aids you see advertised on late night TV. These cheapie devices enable users to crank up the volume, sometimes to dangerous levels, causing even more hearing loss. If you think you need something to amplify your hearing, then it is time to look into actual hearing aids that are recommended for your hearing loss and fit precisely based on your loss.
Which gets us to the modern marvels of technology, computers for the ears – today's hearing aids!
|Open ear hearing aids, like Oticon Agil, offer solid solutions for mild hearing loss|
Hearing aids come in a variety of types and styles to suit your personal preferences and your hearing loss. In fact within the last few years new hearing aids have been designed specifically for persons with mild hearing loss in the higher frequencies.
Hearing aids for mild hearing loss are referred to as open ear hearing aids. No, these are not the big beige behind the ear (BTE) hearing aids gramps wore. Today, they're lightweight for all-day wearing comfort, they come in a variety of colors from flesh tone to violet and they pack a lot of features into a tiny, little casing.
All good. But the biggest reason open ear hearing aids are the number one choice of folks with mild hearing loss is the open-ear fit design. Open ear hearing aids consist of a mini behind the ear (BTE) hearing aid that sits discretely behind the outer ear and ultra thin plastic tubing which routes sound into the ear canal. The tubing then connects to a soft tip which sits within ear canal, without blocking it. The result is a natural, open feeling as airflow and sound enter the ear naturally around the tip, while amplified sound enters through the tip.
An open ear BTE delivers an open ear fit, a smooth, automated boost in volume as needed and a long list of automated features to simplify life, from automated whistling suppression (talk on the phone with that high-pitched squeal) to automated volume control tuned by the hearing professional.
One example of an open ear hearing aid is the Oticon Agil. Agil hearing aids offer a sleek and compact open ear hearing aid while improving the overall listening experience with sophisticated hearing aid technology.
When you think of hearing aids, you think of those clunky, screechy things that gramps used to grumble about but, today, hearing aids are digital computers designed to not only improve hearing but also improve quality of life and help you enjoy life more without a major change in lifestyle.
Step one is easy: pick up the phone and call a local hearing professional as soon as you suspect hearing loss in yourself or a loved one. Don't know of one? Check out any of the over 2400 professionals in Healthy Hearing's Hearing Professional Directory.
Then, work with these hearing pros to find solutions in adaptive behaviors and state-of-the-art hearing aid technology to provide the most organic, au natural hearing experience available.
Don't sit on the fence any longer. Go pro-active and see a hearing pro. You really ought to hear what's going on.