Editor's note: This article was originally posted on November 9, 2009. Due to its overwhelming popularity, we've updated it to republish today.
There are many different causes of hearing loss and even different types of hearing loss. The most common cause of hearing loss is presbycusis, hearing loss due to the aging process. Typically, hearing loss due to age is influenced by genetics, exposure to loud sounds through your lifetime and general overall health. Although hearing loss due to age occurs at different rates and affects each person differently throughout their life, one thing is common for all – it occurs gradually. In fact it occurs so gradual many people don’t even notice they have hearing loss.
Thanks to the millions of tiny sensory hair cells within our inner ears, we have the ability to hear all different frequencies (pitch) from very low to very high. Because of this, hearing loss can vary frequency by frequency. With age, we lose our hearing first in the higher frequencies, so because some people can still technically “hear,” they may not be able to fully understand or pick up on every little sound.
Speech is a complex signal, meaning it contains low, mid and high pitch sounds. Although you may have high frequency hearing loss and miss parts of words, your hearing may still be relatively okay at other frequencies allowing you to get by. However, there comes a time your hearing loss becomes more significant and noticeable, making it more difficult for you to be able to compensate and fill in the blanks as easily.
Like any medical condition, the sooner you address the hearing loss the better treatment outcome you will have. The following are 10 common signs that you may have hearing loss. If you suspect you or a loved one is suffering from hearing loss, contact a hearing healthcare professional today.
1. You have trouble hearing people talking on the telephone. Most phones come with a volume control setting, so you might not have trouble hearing your friend, co-worker, client or friend because you’ve amped the telephone to the max. Check the volume setting on the telephone receiver. If it’s at max volume, chances are you, or someone at home or in the office has hearing loss and needs to see a hearing professional.
2. You have trouble following a conversation when people are talking at the same time. Because our ability to process multiple incoming and competing signals also deteriorates over time, being a little lost in conversation isn't always a sign of hearing loss. However, let’s say you’re at a work meeting or eating dinner with the family; when two or more people talk at the same time, do you have a hard time keeping up? If so, you may be suffering from hearing loss.
3. The family complains that the TV is too loud. If this isn’t a sign of hearing loss, nothing is. When your kids or significant other complain that the TV is too loud, you probably have a hearing problem. If you think this might only be an issue for older generations, think again. The fact is, hearing professionals are seeing younger and younger patients – teens and young adults in their 20s – who have experienced some degree of hearing loss due to long-term exposure to music.
4. You strain to hear conversations. Ever have a headache at the end of the day? Feel completely exhausted after a simple day of conversing with coworkers, friends or family? Chances are this fatigue is caused by constant straining to follow the conversation. Having to focus all day to clearly hear conversation is exhausting work and can lead to additional maladies such as headaches, fatigue and exhaustion. Hearing aids will help you stay in the game and feel better at the end of the day.
5. You have trouble hearing in noisy environments. You’re with some friends at the new bistro in town. It’s noisy, just like any busy eatery. And all that background noise makes it difficult to hear the folks at your table. People with hearing loss often have problems masking out background noise. Good news. Today’s hearing aids – even the entry-level variety – come with directional microphones and digital noise reduction. Directional mics pick up sound in front while reducing the cacophony of ambient noise surrounding you. Add that with digital noise reduction, which minimizes the din of background noise to improve comfort, and you may experience a refined listening experience.
6. You say ‘What?’ a lot. More than a couple of times a day. Just because you didn’t hear a mumbling co-worker from 10 feet away doesn’t mean you have a hearing loss. However, if “what?” is the most commonly used word in your vocabulary, you aren’t getting the sound signals you need to process sound correctly, resulting in hearing loss.
7. People don’t speak clearly. Speaking of mumbling, if everyone around you sounds like the teacher from Charlie Brown, chances are you're suffering from hearing loss. If it sounds like you’ve got cotton in your ears, you aren’t picking up the full range of sound – from high notes to low – making noise sound like mumbling to you. A correctly fitting hearing aid can fix this problem and enable you to hear clearly.
8. You misunderstand what people say. “You want me to eat a frog?” “No, Fred, I said, ‘See the fog’." Misunderstanding people can be embarrassing, but it doesn't have to be that way. A pair of hearing aids can enable you to understand conversation and avoid the awkwardness of mishearing important directions, the punch line to a joke or the lyrics to your favorite song.
9. You have trouble hearing children and women. As previously discussed, hearing loss within a specific frequency is pretty common and with age, you’re more likely to experience hearing loss within the higher frequencies. Since women and children speak at higher pitches or frequencies, it’s often more difficult to hear what your granddaughter or wife is saying to you than when your best friend with a big, booming, deep voice speaks to you. A hearing evaluation can determine precisely which frequencies have gone soft on you. With a tuned hearing aid boosting sound at specific frequencies, your hearing ability could be restored back to almost normal.
10. You become annoyed at others because you can’t understand what they say. It can be easy to get frustrated and annoyed at those around you when you cannot hear what they're saying. Try to remember, you’re not annoyed at the speaker; you’re really annoyed that you can’t hear the speaker as well as you once did. The feelings of frustration are normal and understandable. Hearing loss isn’t just about the ears. Loss of hearing is associated with depression, anxiety, isolation and other emotional disorders. By calling a hearing healthcare professional, you may be able to lead a happier, healthier life —simply by being able to hear more clearly!
Moving Forward with Hearing Loss
If you recognize one or two of these symptoms of hearing loss, don't fret that you have hearing loss. We all experience times where we have trouble hearing. However, if you recognize more than a few of these symptoms, chances are, you have some degree of hearing loss.
No need to fear; hearing loss with age is common and can easily be identified and treated. Call a hearing professional within easy driving distance from you, no matter where you live. These professionals do a complete work-up on the extent and nature of your hearing loss then make recommendations of various types of hearing loss solutions.
There are a lot of choices available to treat hearing loss. One of them is perfect for you. Find a hearing professional near you today.