Hearing is one of our most important senses. The ability to hear makes it possible for individuals to connect with the world, maintain relationships, communicate with friends and families, and experience life events.
Unfortunately, hearing can decrease over time for many reasons. Some of the most common include old age, exposure to loud noises, and as a side effect of a severe health condition, all of which may lead to hearing loss.
Although the impairment is often physically felt in the ears, individuals can also feel the psychological and social effects of hearing loss.
In this post, we outline the early signs of hearing impairment, as well as the common types, prevention, and available treatment methods.
Table of Contents
Early signs of hearing loss
Whether you are suffering from sensorineural hearing loss or conductive hearing loss, the impairment usually develops gradually and is imperceptible at first. Without realizing that their ability to hear has decreased over time, people often get used to the onset of hearing impairment.
However, there comes a certain point when the first signs of hearing loss become evident, especially to family members and friends, while the individual goes on denying that they can no longer hear perfectly. Some of these early signs of hearing impairment include:
- Trouble hearing high-pitched sounds;
- Trouble understanding conversations in loud places;
- Asking your family, friends, and colleagues to speak more slowly, clearly, and loudly;
- Turning up the TV’s volume;
- Ringing in the ears;
- Increased hypersensitivity to certain sounds.
In addition to these signs, hearing loss can also lead to feelings of embarrassment, stress, isolation, loneliness, and even depression.
Signs depending on the types of hearing loss
There are three types of hearing loss including conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss. All of these are characterized by different signs and symptoms.
For example, sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing impairment, which occurs when there is damage to the tiny hair-like cells of the inner ear or the auditory nerve itself. The main symptoms a person with sensorineural hearing loss experiences affect both the loudness and the clarity of sounds. This results in issues such as slurred speech, tinnitus, difficulties following a conversation, and feelings of dizziness.
Conductive hearing loss is a type of impairment that occurs when there is an obstruction or damage to the outer or middle ear, preventing sound from being conducted to the inner ear. A person suffering from this hearing loss mainly has difficulties with the overall loudness of sounds, but not the clarity. Some common symptoms they experience include earache, ear pressure, trouble talking on the phone, a foul odor coming from the ear canal, and a feeling that one’s own voice sounds louder or different.
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss, which is why the symptoms of both types of hearing impairment can occur.
Prevention and detection of hearing loss
One common mistake people make is they wait until their hearing becomes significantly decreased to seek medical help. This is wrong because the earlier you detect the signs of possible hearing impairment the sooner you can prevent it from becoming more severe.
Firstly, you should schedule a basic hearing evaluation during which a hearing care specialist will examine your ear and perform various tests to check your hearing ability. The audiologist may have you listen to different sounds through headphones to help identify how mild or severe your hearing loss has become.
Treatment of hearing loss
Although hearing loss cannot be completely restored, there are a few treatments that may help. Some of these include wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants, undergoing surgical procedures, and removing the wax blockage.
In most cases, people usually decide to wear hearing aids to help treat the problem and improve their quality of life. However, it is important to note that these devices do not cure or restore hearing, but they just amplify the sound in the specific ranges you need so you can hear better.
Changes in hearing are common as people age. However, being able to notice the first signs of decreased hearing can help you become more aware of the possibility that you may be suffering from some form of hearing loss.
If you want to know more about hearing impairment, refer to our post and read about the early signs you need to watch out for to detect hearing loss.