Contributed by Debbie Clason, Editor-in-Chief, Healthy Hearing
Hearing loss is often a sneaky thief. It can gradually take over you, robbing you of your hearing in increments so small that you suddenly find yourself struggling to understand the conversation and missing some of your favorite sounds.
How do you know if you have hearing loss? Symptoms of hearing loss depend on the type and severity. Only a trained hearing healthcare professional can tell you for sure, but here are five signs you may not be hearing your best.
1. Consonants are hard to hear
‘Did you say spectacle Where to throw? ‘
If you’ve lived long enough to develop presbycusis or age-related hearing loss, you may have lost your ability to hear high-frequency sounds. In speech, this translates to the sounds of the consonants S, F, Th, Sh, V, K and P. These sounds are important because they help you distinguish similar sounding words, for example “show” and “throw away”. Or “keep” and “watch”.
As a result, you may misunderstand important parts of the conversation and respond inappropriately or think people are mumbling. In other words, you can hear, but not understand.
2. The birds have apparently disappeared
Take a moment and think about it: When was the last time you heard birds singing or crickets chirping? Do you hear the car’s turn signal when it flashes? Do you have trouble hearing your wife or grandchildren when they speak? (Good news: hearing aids help birders.)
These higher-pitched sounds and voices are recorded at frequencies of 2000 Hz or higher, which people with high-frequency hearing loss have difficulty hearing.
3. Understanding the conversation in crowded places is getting harder and harder
Another symptom of high frequency hearing loss is the inability to distinguish speech in noisy environments. As a result, you may find yourself avoiding social situations such as family reunions or impromptu celebrations with friends at local gathering places where you are forced to focus on understanding the conversation.
4. You try to listen and it’s exhausting
If you find that you have trouble listening to the conversation and are more exhausted than usual at the end of the day, you may experience hearing fatigue. Like a fading radio state or a poor phone connection, you have a hard time keeping up with the conversation.
Most people are surprised to learn that hearing is a brain activity. When your hearing system is compromised, it takes a lot more effort for your brain to process the sound it receives from your inner ear. Indeed, the signal is broken.
Following: Hearing loss is exhausting? I was skeptical until I did a hearing test
5. Your ears are ringing
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that more than 50 million people suffer from some degree of tinnitus, making it one of the most common health problems in the country.
Age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss can cause tinnitus, a condition also known as ringing in the ears. In both of these situations, researchers believe that tinnitus may be the brain’s way of filling in missing frequencies that it is no longer receiving from the auditory system.
What is the solution ?
High frequency hearing loss is usually a type of sensorineural hearing loss, which means that the hair cells in the inner ear have been damaged. These hair cells are responsible for converting sounds into signals and sending them along the auditory nerve to the brain for interpretation. In addition to age, sensorineural hearing loss has many causes, including exposure to noise, disease, infection, or genetics.
Although sensorineural hearing loss is not curable, it can be treated with hearing aids or cochlear implants. Diagnosis and treatment are important because untreated hearing loss has been linked to mental health issues such as anger, depression, anxiety, isolation, frustration, loneliness, and decreased cognitive function.
Seek help from a hearing care professional
Today’s hearing aids are sophisticated technological marvels, with the ability to boost high frequencies you may miss without amplifying low frequency sounds you hear very well. And hearing aids are linked to health benefits like delayed onset of dementia and lower rates of depression. A hearing care professional can assess your hearing and help you determine which hearing aid is best for your hearing loss, lifestyle and budget.
Even if you don’t have any of these signs of hearing loss, don’t wait until something goes wrong. Treat your hearing health as you would your vision or overall physical health, and schedule annual hearing exams with a professional you trust. Visit our online directory of consumer reviewed hearing clinics to find a provider near you.