Knowing the status of your hearing health is smart, even if you don’t think you have hearing loss. Sometimes it takes years to recognize hearing loss, in part because it comes on gradually. Gathering information is a great place to start. You can use what you learn to guide you on your path to better hearing. You can also share it with family members or loved ones—if you can help them acknowledge their hearing loss, you’ll be well on the way to helping them find a solution.
Your Hearing Network helps people with hearing loss connect with a local licensed hearing provider to gain access to quality hearing care and products. To find out if what you’re experiencing is hearing loss, call Your Hearing Network today and schedule an appointment.
“Hearing loss” means that you have a decreased sensitivity to sounds that are normally heard. The type and degree of hearing loss can vary, but most cases can be helped. Studies have linked untreated hearing loss effects to:
- Irritability, negativism and anger
- Fatigue, tension, stress and depression
- Avoidance or withdrawal from social situations
- Social rejection and loneliness
- Reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety
- Impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks
- Reduced job performance and earning power
- Diminished psychological and overall health
- Even mild untreated hearing loss can be disabling and disruptive to meaningful communication and social connectivity. These effects can lead to fatigue, tension, and stress, as well as impair memory and even reduce job performance and earning power.
- Those with untreated hearing loss may not be aware that failure to take corrective action could result in the brain actually “forgetting” how to hear and understand speech. This condition is called auditory deprivation, and the longer the period before treatment, the more likely it is that the brain will forget how to process speech, even after treatment is implemented.
- Almost all (95 percent) of Americans with hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids.
- 9 out of 10 hearing aid users report improvements in quality of life.
- The use of hearing aids is associated with reductions in anger, frustration, paranoia, anxiety and overall improvements in quality of life and emotional stability.
- In November 2010, The Better Hearing Institute reported that the use of hearing aids can help Alzheimer’s patients. Due to the strong link between hearing loss and cognitive function, they, in partnership with The Alzheimer’s Association, are encouraging hearing health professionals to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s, it’s early warning signs, and the related implications of unaddressed hearing loss.
- Treatment of hearing loss will improve interpersonal relationships and social activity.
- Successful treatment of hearing loss with hearing aids is associated with greater earning power.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), the average amount of time a person with hearing loss waits to seek treatment is between 7 to 10 years.
Treating hearing loss sooner with hearing aids has been shown in studies to halt cognitive decline, improve mood and can help your loved one stay healthy and feel connected again. If you are one of the estimated 48 million American adults suffering from hearing loss, the information below could help answer some of your questions.
There are four types of hearing loss—sensorineural, conductive, mixed and central.
Sensorineural hearing loss also known as nerve-related or permanent hearing loss, is the result of problems in the inner ear and is the most common type in adults. Sensorineural hearing loss may be caused by presbycusis or age-related hearing loss, infection or other disease, noise exposure drugs or genetics. This type of loss is usually permanent but can be helped with the use of hearing aids.
Conductive hearing loss is caused by a problem in the outer or middle ear but indicates normal inner ear activity. This means it can often be treated with medical attention or surgery. In children, this is most commonly caused by fluid in the middle ear. Other causes may include wax in the ear canal, swimmer’s ear or a perforation in the eardrum.
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss and is a result of damage in the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear or auditory nerve. While the part that is conductive may be medically treated, the sensorineural part can be helped with the use of hearing aids.
Central hearing loss, the rarest type of loss, also called auditory processing disorder, is caused by impairment to the central auditory system’s ability to filter and process sounds transmitted from the ear to the brain. This type of hearing loss cannot be helped with hearing aids.
Tinnitus, commonly referred to as “ringing in the ears”, is a condition that affects 1 out of every 5 American’s ability to hear on an ongoing basis. People with tinnitus describe hearing ringing, hissing, static, screeching, whooshing, roaring, pulsing or buzzing sounds that others don’t hear. Tinnitus can occur in one ear or both, be off-and-on or persistent, temporary or chronic. Many factors can contribute to tinnitus—the most common being loud noises you might experience at concerts, sporting events or working with noisy equipment. Other causes include aging, wax buildup and certain medications such as jaw misalignment, head trauma, disease and tumors. While no cure for tinnitus exists, you can manage its effects. Limiting exposure to extreme noise levels, or wearing earplugs, is the simplest way to protect your ears. If you suffer from hearing loss in addition to tinnitus, there is a good chance your hearing care professional can fit you with hearing aids to both improve your hearing and relieve tinnitus.
Sometimes recognizing hearing loss isn't easy, due to the gradual onset and progression of the condition. A lot of people go years without realizing their hearing has changed. Your ears play critical roles within your body, including your brain. Even mild hearing loss can impact your health. So, what are some of the signs of hearing loss that you should be looking for?
Asking to have things repeated. Everyone needs to have things repeated now and again. But if you ask more and more often and sometimes feel “outside” the conversation, you might want to have your hearing professionally checked. Asking to have things repeated can quickly turn into a bad habit. Sadly, a lot of times people will recognize they are bothering others by asking to have things repeated but won’t recognize their hearing changes. Instead they begin to avoid conversations. Don’t isolate yourself, recognize this sign of hearing loss and remember there is something you can do about it.
Buzzing or whistling in the ears. Hearing a buzzing, ringing or whistling sound with no actual noise present is called tinnitus. These phantom sounds happen to a lot of people and are an early sign of hearing loss. The good news is many hearing aid manufacturers offer hearing aids specifically designed to help people with tinnitus. And many people say using hearing aids in general helps to alleviate their tinnitus symptoms.
Your normal is your spouse’s loud. Turning the volume of the television so loud your spouse complains or being told you’re speaking too loudly when you think you’re talking at a normal level are classic signs of hearing loss. Frequently friends and loved ones notice your symptoms of hearing loss before you do. One easy way to gauge your hearing is by becoming aware of how others react to things you don’t think are too loud.
Frustration with background noise. Background noise, such as a restaurant, can make it hard for everyone to hear, but it’s even harder when you have a hearing loss. People with normal hearing can better focus on the sounds they want to hear while tuning out those they don’t want. People with a hearing loss have a more difficult time with background noise. Advanced hearing aids today can identify characteristics of wanted and unwanted sound and help to filter them for better clarity and comfort.
Dropped conversation cues. If you’ve recently been in a conversation with someone and it seemed they suddenly got quieter or expected a response, but you had no idea why, you could’ve been experiencing a dropped conversation cue. This can happen because hearing loss is experienced in ranges. So, you might hear one range just fine, but when the range shifts, you experience a dropped signal. Today’s hearing aids are tailored to your individual hearing loss. That means they identify and deliver the sounds that you are missing, making it easier for you to keep up with the conversation.
The signs of hearing loss are typically subtle and emerge slowly, but they can be sudden and dramatic. You might have hearing loss if you…
- 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
- 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
- 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
Your Hearing Network will connect you with a licensed provider in your community. From there, the provider will welcome you to the office and perform a series of procedures that will assist in identifying the type and degree of hearing loss that you might have. You can expect these procedures:
- Ear examination with a special light to provide good visibility
- An interview with the provider about your health and hearing concerns
- A complete hearing evaluation that measures your responses to speech and sound
- A thorough explanation of your test results
- A recommendation for treatment, if indicated
- If hearing aids are recommended, your provider will provide options that take into consideration your test results, lifestyle, technology preferences, cosmetic preferences, dexterity issues and your budget. Financing programs are available through Your Hearing Network.
Research by the National Council on the Aging, on more than 2,000 people with hearing loss as well as their significant others, demonstrated that hearing aids clearly are associated with impressive improvements in the social, emotional, psychological, and physical well-being of people with hearing loss in all hearing loss categories from mild to severe. Specifically, hearing aid usage is positively related to the following quality of life issues. Hearing loss treatment was shown to improve:
- Earning power
- Communication in relationships
- Intimacy and warmth in family relationships
- Ease in communication
- Emotional stability
- Sense of control over life events
- Perception of mental functioning
- Physical health
Technology and consumer electronics are transforming people’s lives, adding ease and enjoyment to daily living. The same is true for hearing aid technology. In the past few years, research and development have enabled a technological transformation in the hearing aid marketplace. These advances in hearing aids are making a significant difference in the lives of millions.
Today’s state-of-the-art hearing aids are highly effective, sleek, and sophisticated wearable electronics that can help people stay actively connected to life and to those they love.
Many of today’s hearing aids allow users to hear from all directions, in all sorts of sound environments, and even underwater. They are digital, wireless, can connect directly to your smartphone or television, and can be as discreet or as visible as you like. Whether they sit discreetly inside the ear canal or wrap aesthetically around the contour of the outer ear like the latest fashion accessory, today’s high-performance hearing aids amplify life.
Between 5 and 10% of people with hearing loss are not candidates for hearing aids. When conventional amplification is not a viable solution, alternative options are considered. Ask your physician or hearing provider if medical treatment is an option for you.
Hearing loss counseling is an important facet in overall hearing loss treatment; for most people hearing aids are not enough. Speaking with a qualified professional or people who also suffer from hearing loss are great ways to learn more about coping with losing your own hearing.