When you or your family members begin to notice that you are not hearing as well as you used to and you decide to take a hearing test, you may find that the results indicate a mild hearing loss. If you yourself haven’t yet noticed any changes to your hearing abilities, this can come as a surprise to you. You may wonder what a mild hearing loss, what to do about it, and if there are hearing aids for mild hearing loss?
What is a mild hearing loss?
If you have a mild hearing loss, you may find it difficult to hear softer sounds, such as rustling leaves, a dripping tap, whispering and especially speech sounds such as ‘th’, ‘p’, ‘k’, ‘f’, ‘h’ and ‘s’. You will typically experience no difficulties hearing when in a quiet room, when speaking to only one other person, or when facing a speaker directly. However, if there is any background noise present or if the speaker is far away, you may have difficulty making out some of what is being said and will most likely mishear words (for e.g. hearing ‘phone’ instead of ‘home’) or misunderstand the topic of conversation. This often leads to confusion, embarrassment, and/or frustration.
The term ‘mild hearing loss’ is purely a label based on your hearing results. It does not describe how you experience the loss. In some ways, mild hearing loss can be harder to accept than more severe hearing loss because you may feel there is nothing wrong with your hearing. You may have noticed a problem in certain environments and assumed it must be due to poor acoustics in the room, or a mumbling or soft-spoken speaker. Mild hearing loss can also often lead to family members becoming frustrated with each other due to the fact that they have to constantly repeat themselves.
Reasons why a hearing aid is necessary for mild hearing loss
Your ear is divided into three sections. Namely the outer ear, middle ear, and the inner ear. Mild hearing loss can occur in any of these sections of your ear. Whilst outer or middle ear-related hearing loss (such as a wax blockage or ear infection) can often be treated medically, hearing loss in the inner ear (also called sensorineural hearing loss) is generally permanent and can worsen over time. Unfortunately, this is also the most common type of hearing loss in adults. This type of hearing loss can be caused by exposure to loud sounds, age-related deterioration, certain medications, or various inner ear diseases.
Primary intervention for sensorineural hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing check results are used to configure hearing aids, to help amplify sounds that you haven’t heard in a long time. Not only can hearing aids amplify important sounds, such as speech but they also play a role in reducing background noise, in order to make important sounds clearer.
4 Reasons to wear a hearing aid
- Hearing aids will help with fatigue
With any hearing loss, even a mild one, your brain spends more energy focusing on understanding speech, in comparison to an individual with normal hearing. As a result, you tend to feel tired faster and are less inclined to keep on listening. A hearing aid can make the pathway that sound travels to your brain, much more effortless. This way, instead of using all your energy wondering if your friend is talking about the weather or a feather, you can concentrate your attention on thinking about the topic and how to respond appropriately.
- Hearing aids help your brain process sounds
If your ear can’t pick up certain sounds, the nerve that stimulates sound to the brain will not be stimulated. The longer this hearing nerve and corresponding parts of the brain are deprived of those signals, the less the brain is able to process them. Therefore, when people with a hearing loss wait a few years before wearing hearing aids, the brain can lose some of its ability to identify different sounds. So, whilst hearing aids may make sounds louder, these sounds will not be very clear. However, if hearing aids are fitted as soon as a hearing loss is detected, minimal time is lost for the brain and therefore the brain’s processing and discrimination abilities will remain intact1.
- Hearing aids help prevent dementia
In recent years, the connection between hearing loss and dementia has become evident. Individuals with hearing loss are at greater risk of developing dementia later on in life2. This is because people who have difficulty hearing, often avoid social outings as they don’t want to have to struggle to fully participate in conversations. When you withdraw you reduce mental stimulation. This can also lead to loneliness and depression which are aspects that both contribute to the progression of dementia2.
- Hearing aids help you stay connected to social groups
People with hearing loss who wear hearing aids, feel less mentally exhausted by social interactions, can participate in their communities more, and derive greater enjoyment from life, whilst promoting the health of their brains.
Whether a hearing loss is mild or severe, it is still a loss. One that can lead to frustration and overall lower quality of life. Luckily, it is also a loss that can be easily addressed. In many ways, being diagnosed with a mild hearing loss is good news: it means that you have caught your hearing loss early, in order to ensure that you keep that connection between your ears and your brain strong, whilst you can get back to living life and connecting with loved ones. Hearing aids for mild hearing loss are a happy solution!