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Hearing Loss Overview
Hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the United States, affecting 20% of the population. Though hearing loss may occur to anyone at any age, it is most prevalent among older Americans. One in three people age 65 and older, and 50% of people age 75 and older, experience some degree of hearing loss.
Hearing loss is often a natural process of aging, though there are other causes, such as exposure to loud noise or due to the use of certain classes of antibiotics. Because it is an invisible condition that usually occurs gradually, you may not notice at first changes in your hearing.
Here, we outline the common signs that you may be experiencing hearing loss.
Signs You May Be Experiencing Hearing Loss
Turning Up the Volume
One key sign of hearing loss is gradually turning up the volume on your TV, radio, and other devices. Because hearing loss interferes with the reception of sound waves and issues with amplification, the sounds you experience in your daily life may become muddled. As a result, people with hearing loss tend to turn up the volume on their devices, believing this will help them hear with more clarity. If your loved ones have asked you to turn the volume down, you may be experiencing hearing loss.
Hearing – But Not Understanding
Speech recognition becomes difficult with untreated hearing loss. During conversations – whether one-on-one or with multiple speakers – you may hear, but have difficulty understanding what is being said. Hearing loss takes many forms, which means you may have difficulty understanding people with voices of high frequencies (such as women and children) or you may not be able to differentiate between certain sounds in speech (confusing words with “s” and “th” or “b” and “p”).
Asking People to Repeat Themselves
Also related to speech recognition, during conversations you may find yourself asking people to repeat themselves. You may misunderstand what has been said, or you may have just not heard clearly. Additionally, with hearing loss, it is difficult to identify the direction from which sounds come. This means you may have difficulty understanding someone if they are standing behind you and speaking.
Avoiding Social Situations
The accumulation of difficulties and frustrations that come with hearing loss may lead you to avoid social situations altogether. Hearing becomes difficult when you are in particularly noisy situations, such as parties or restaurants, and people with hearing loss tend to overcompensate by “pretending” to participate in conversation. Gradually, untreated hearing loss leads to a social withdrawal from the people and activities we love. If you’ve found yourself avoiding social engagements lately, it may indicate a hearing loss.
Changes in Your Mood
Hearing loss has been linked to depression and anxiety. When you are struggling to hear, simple interactions may become frustrating. You may find that you are more impatient. When it comes to communication, the difficulty with understanding may lead to conflict due to mishearing what is being said. In the workplace, untreated hearing loss has been linked to a decrease in productivity. These changes in your mood may indicate a hearing loss.
What to Do if You Suspect Hearing Loss
Hearing specialists estimate that it takes a person an average of seven years from the time they first notice changes in their hearing until they decide to seek help. It is important to take a hearing test sooner rather than later, as untreated hearing loss is related to many other health issues, such as an increased risk for dementia and links to depression and anxiety.
If you suspect you are experiencing hearing loss, contact us at Hearing Center of Hawaii for a hearing exam. We will evaluate your hearing abilities and work with you toward better hearing health.