During the day you’re exposed to numerous speech and environmental sounds. These sounds help you to make sense of the world around you and keeps you connected to people. When you sleep, your ears still collect 100% of the sounds around you, but your brain chooses to dampen most of those sounds so that you may sleep undisturbed. When you have a hearing loss, you will start missing out on environmental sounds and speech when in conversation.
Research suggests that an individual may have hearing loss for numerous years before they are ready to do something about it. Often individuals assume that the television is too faint or that people are mumbling, so it takes them a while to realize and accept that the difficulty is with their hearing. One of the reasons it goes unnoticed is that when the ears struggle to hear, the brain tries to fill in the gaps by using visual and contextual cues. As a result, the people around you often notice that you are having difficulty with your hearing before you actually do.
Signs of hearing difficulty
Hearing loss is caused by many factors which is why it’s not advisable to diagnose yourself with hearing loss. It’s an intricate and complex system that needs to be thoroughly assessed by a hearing healthcare professional. There may however be signs that lead you to suspect that you may have a hearing loss before you have a hearing test done to confirm it. Some of these signs may include the following:
- constantly asking for people to repeat themselves
- guessing what people are saying
- bluffing or pretending to hear
- blaming others for mumbling or talking unclearly
- becoming frustrated when in conversation
- withdrawing from people or social situations because its difficult to hear speech
- struggling to understand speech from a distance
- struggling to understand speech without visual cues
- struggling to hear the television/radio or increasing the volume to hear better
- struggling to hear on the telephone
- struggling to tell the difference between speech or sounds in the environment
- struggling to determine where in the environment a sound is coming from
- speaking louder than you usually do
- concentrating hard to hear what people are saying
- often being or feeling off-balance or unstable
- experiencing a ringing sound in the ear (tinnitus)
- feeling like your ear is blocked.
Should you self-diagnose?
Hearing is a complex function and it involves multiple processes along the auditory pathway. It can be caused by various factors and could be a symptom of other medical complications, that at times may improve with appropriate medical intervention. However, further testing or investigating is often needed to rule out potential associated medical conditions. The cause and presentation of the hearing loss directly influence the treatment pathway. That is why it’s important that if hearing loss is suspected, the hearing is tested to determine the type of hearing loss and the best way forward.
Start with a free online hearing screening
If you think you may have hearing loss, often a hearing screening is the first step. Many free online hearing screening tests are available, like Lexie’s online hearing test. This quick screen determines your ability to hear target digits in the presence of background speech. The results will immediately inform you if you need to consider further testing. If further testing is required, or you are concerned about the results, make an appointment to consult with a hearing healthcare professional. They will be able to administer a thorough assessment based on your hearing difficulties and concerns and give you the guidance you might need.
Often the first solution for hearing difficulties is an amplification device such as a hearing aid. Hearing aids are small, sophisticated pieces of technology that can amplify and clean speech signals. Most people go through an adjustment period to adapt to the hearing devices. It is important to persevere through this period to reap the benefits of the devices. Once the adaptation period has passed, the sound quality from the hearing devices becomes more natural. Amplification devices assist with hearing difficulties with one-on-one conversations, group conversations, meetings, speech-in-noise, the television, the telephone, and many other activities of daily living.
If you think you have hearing loss, get your hearing tested and find out what the best solution is for you.