As an invisible condition, hearing loss may not be immediately apparent to those who may be experiencing it. At the same time, hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the US, affecting one-third of people over the age of 65. Even so, most people are not aware of the signs of hearing loss, and those who do notice changes in their hearing tend to wait an average of seven years before seeking an evaluation or treatment of any kind.
Addressing hearing loss early is an important step to your overall health and well-being. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to many aspects of one’s life, from increasing the risk for dementia to harming your earning potential on the job to negatively affecting your interpersonal relationships.
In recent years, studies have shown a rise in hearing loss – in populations of older Americans as well as teens and young adults. The signs of hearing loss may be subtle at first. Here’s what to look out for when it comes to hearing loss.
Social Signs of Hearing Loss
Humans are social animals, and communication is the foundation to healthy relationships. Hearing loss greatly interferes with our social lives. You may be experiencing hearing loss if you ask people to repeat themselves in conversation or have difficulty following a conversation that involves two or more people.
People with hearing loss tend to struggle with voices that are higher frequency, such as those of women and children. At the same time, if it sounds like everyone is mumbling, it actually may be changes in your hearing abilities. Hearing loss interferes with our ability to recognize speech. Many people who experience hearing loss report that while they can hear, it is difficult to understand what is being said. Speech recognition becomes difficult in places that are particularly busy and loud, such as restaurants or malls.
If people in your life have told you that the volume on the TV or radio is too loud, you may be experiencing hearing loss. Unfortunately, turning up the volume on various devices does not help to elucidate what you’re hearing.
Emotional Signs of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss, if left untreated, does take a toll on one’s emotional well-being and interpersonal relationships. If you find yourself getting anxious before going to a big gathering, or if you find yourself avoiding activities you once loved, it could be due to hearing loss. Communication becomes difficult in social settings, and this can be stressful. You may find that you are embarrassed to be in social settings because you mishear what people say or you find it difficult to keep up with a fast-paced conversation. On the job, difficulty with communication could cause undue stress and even affect your performance and productivity.
Untreated hearing loss has been linked to an increase in social anxiety, withdrawal from social settings, and depression. The isolation that comes with hearing loss can be harmful, if left untreated.
Medical Conditions Related to Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is a medical condition, and it is related to a number of other conditions (comorbidities). If you have diabetes or cardiovascular problems, hearing loss may be a product of these. Similarly, if you work in a loud industry or are exposed to loud volumes on a regular basis, this could contribute to hearing loss. Certain kinds of medications are ototoxic, which means they are poisonous to the ear. If you’ve noticed a change in your hearing after taking antibiotics or other medications, contact your physician immediately.
What to Do if You Notice Changes in Your Hearing
The signs of hearing loss are at first subtle, and hearing loss happens gradually. If you find yourself constantly frustrated after communicating, you may want to take steps to make changes.
Most hearing specialists recommend an annual hearing test, especially if you are age 50 or older. Even if a hearing loss is not found, it is important to monitor your hearing abilities. Think of it as regular checkup, as with your eyesight.
Treating hearing loss is simple and painless, and begins with the first step of taking a hearing test. Here at Bay Area Hearing Service, we provide comprehensive hearing tests to determine the abilities of your hearing. Contact us today if you have noticed changes in your hearing.