Many people don’t notice that hearing loss is taking a toll on their mental and emotional health until they’re prompted by friends and family to have their hearing tested. And while we are becoming more aware of the role that speech clarity plays in recognizing hearing loss, there are more subtle signs of the condition that may be cropping up in your life.
How Hearing Loss Works
Hearing loss that appears as we age is typically caused by aging (age-related hearing loss) or exposure to loud noise (noise-induced hearing loss). One-third of people over the age of 65 experience hearing loss in both ears, many of whom present a mix of both types of hearing loss.
Both the passage of time and excessive noise harm the delicate cells of the inner ear that are responsible for catching noise and transmuting it into sound information. The sound information, in the form of electrical signals, travels along the auditory nerve to ultimately reach the brain’s processing centers.
As these important inner ear cells die off, they do not repair themselves or produce new cells. Instead, we simply have less to work with and the decreased number of cells results in less noise being captured by the ear. Less sound information is sent to the brain and we experience this as hearing loss.
Common Hearing Loss Symptoms
The early symptoms of hearing loss may not be what you expect hearing loss to feel like. Instead of an overall lowering of volume, initial signs might have more today with understanding the speech of people around you. This is because with age-related and noise-induced hearing loss, we tend to lose access to certain frequencies first. So the overall volume you are hearing might remain the same, just more ‘patchy.’
Speech clarity is usually the first indicator that your hearing health has changed. You might notice that you’re often asking people to repeat themselves, that the closed captioning on the television is a permanent fixture or conversations at parties or situations with a lot of background noise are now impossible.
Hearing loss is notoriously difficult to self-diagnose. As humans, we tend to adapt with coping mechanisms and it’s often friends and family that notice changes in behavior and encourage treatment before we’re conscious of the issue.
The Subtle Signs Of Hearing Loss
While speech clarity is often the red flag that leads people to seek help, there are a number of other hearing loss symptoms to look for. These subtle markers of hearing loss can take a toll on your wellbeing and prompt you to schedule a hearing health check.
When we send less sound information to the brain, it has to work harder to piece together the meaning. It’s a lot like trying to do a puzzle when you’re missing many of the pieces. This additional strain on the brain’s energy reserves can leave you feeling fatigued after lectures, conversations or social engagements.
Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
The percentage of people with hearing loss that also experience tinnitus, or a persistent ringing in the ears that only you can hear, is relatively low. However, most people with tinnitus also have hearing loss. The persistent noise doesn’t have to be a ringing, tinnitus sufferers also report clicking, buzzing, whooshing or whining sounds, among others.
Children’s voices are harder to understand
It may be that you hear most people just fine, but have difficulty discerning what children are saying. This is because early hearing loss tends to happen in higher frequencies. Any sounds that are high pitched may fall outside of the range of what your ears are now able to receive.
Along with becoming fatigued after conversation, some people with hearing loss find that they’re more easily distracted. This stems from the same root cause as listening fatigue, as the brain is working overtime trying to hear and make sense of the sounds around you.
Balance and hearing are intricately connected. Our hearing apparatus shares the same pathways as our balance centers: the vestibulocochlear nerve. What’s more, we rely on our ears to measure the distance of sounds and to orient ourselves in space.
Get In Touch With Our Team
Hearing health is a foundational aspect of a vibrant life! And while most instances of age-related and noise-induced hearing loss are irreversible, they are highly treatable conditions. Get in touch with our team of highly trained hearing health professionals today to schedule a hearing consultation. We’ll guide you through a simple hearing exam and get you started on the path to your most enhanced hearing possible.