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Do you find yourself struggling to keep up with conversations in environments with background noise? Is following conversations in restaurants or at dinner parties challenging? These difficulties with communication could signal hearing loss, a medical condition that reduces capacity to hear and process speech as well as sound. Over 48 million people have hearing loss, making it one of the most common health conditions that people live with today. Though it is pervasive, hearing loss still remains widely undertreated with only a third of people who coil benefit from treatment actually receiving it. It is important to know and pay attention to early signs so you can intervene and seek treatment.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be caused by several factors. A few of the most common ways hearing loss is caused are:
- Aging: the risk of developing age related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, increases with age. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that: 1 in 3 adults, ages 65-74, have some degree of hearing loss. This increases to 1 in 3 adults, ages 75 and older, who have disabling hearing loss. This can be caused by changes to the ear that may happen over time, the cumulative impact of noise exposure, and existing medical conditions that are linked to hearing loss.
- Loud noise: one time or consistent exposure to loud noise can permanently damage the sensory cells in the inner ear. There are thousands of sensory cells in the cochlea which convert incoming soundwaves into electrical signals that get sent to the brain. The brain is then able to further process these signals and assign meaning to them, allowing us to understand what we hear. Loud noise can desensitize and weaken sensory cells, reducing their capacity to process soundwaves effectively.
- Medical conditions: substantial research shows that a number of medical conditions can increase the risk of hearing loss. This includes heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and osteoporosis. These conditions impact blood flow, blood vessels, and bone health which are all integral to processing sound.
Additional causes of hearing loss include inner ear disorders, chronic ear infections, autoimmune conditions, and head injuries.
Difficulties Communicating is an Early Sign
Hearing loss typically occurs gradually so it may take time to notice symptoms. This often leads to a delay in treatment which can worsen hearing loss. Recognizing early signs can help you identify hearing loss, supporting early intervention. Experiencing difficulties hearing and communicating are telltale signs of hearing loss. This can involve:
- Struggling to follow conversations in environments with background noise.
- Frequently asking others to repeat what they said, speak louder and/or slower.
- Lip reading to help identify individual words.
- Finding yourself responding with “huh” or “what”.
- Feeling confused or lost during a conversation.
- Needing to move to a quieter space to be able to hear more clearly.
- Pretending to hear just to get through a conversation.
- Experiencing tinnitus which is a ringing or buzzing noise in one or both ears that only you can hear.
- Feeling tired or drained after conversations and social interactions.
These symptoms can be experienced mildly to more profoundly depending on the degree of hearing loss you are experiencing. Symptoms take a toll on communication and avoiding conversations is a common coping mechanism. This involves spending less time with loved ones, skipping out on social gatherings, and participating less in hobbies. These effects can impact relationships, social life, adn mental health.
Diagnosing & Treating Hearing Loss
Fortuenaly hearing solutions are accessible and effective. Hearing aids are the most common way hearing loss is treated. These electronic devices absorb and process speech and sound which provides the ears and brain with significant support. This alleviates hearing loss symptoms and maximizes hearing capacity. With hearing aids, people are better able to hear and communicate which offers countless life-changing benefits. Hearing aids strengthen communication, improve relationships, enrich social connection, and enhance overall health. People are better able to live active lives that they can fully participate in.
The first step towards accessing treatment is to have your hearing health evaluated by a hearing healthcare specialist. Hearing tests are painless and noninvasive, involving a process that measures your hearing capacities in both ears. Your hearing healthcare provider is then able to tailor treatment to meet your specific needs.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation!