You might assume a hearing impairment would be obvious, but the surprising fact is that many people with hearing loss in Tucson do not even realize it. While in some cases a hearing loss is obvious – for instance, following exposure to a sudden, damaging sound such as a gunshot or explosion – often, hearing loss goes unrecognized and undiagnosed. In fact, you might even be suffering from hearing loss yourself, even if you don’t know it!
Understanding Hearing Loss
In order to understand how you might have hearing loss without knowing it, let’s take a look at how it occurs. In the example above, hearing loss came on suddenly as a result of exposure to hazardous noise. This certainly can (and does) occur, but more often than not, hearing loss is a progressive disease that develops gradually, and worsens incrementally over time.
For about nine out of ten people with hearing loss, the condition occurs when hair cells in the cochlea, the main organ responsible for hearing, become damaged. This is often the result of a lifetime of noise exposure, the cumulative effects of which cause permanent damage to these nerve cells in the inner ear. Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, is the most common type of hearing impairment, affecting an estimated one-third of individuals by the age of 65, and is irreversible. Exposure to loud sounds can exacerbate its effects, especially for those who participate in activities where noise levels (decibels) can be harmful. Tucson residents who attend concerts or sporting events, ride motorcycles, or enjoy hunting have an increased risk of early onset hearing loss unless they take precautions to protect their ears.
When you lose your hearing, it rarely happens all at once. Instead, it is a process. Initially, the higher-pitched frequencies are the first to be affected. This affects your ability to hear certain consonants clearly, such as “s” and “th,” and may cause you to mistake like-sounding words (“book” and “foot,” for example). As the condition worsens, you gradually lose the ability to perceive sounds at lower frequencies. Speech may be loud but unclear; many chalk this up to a mistaken belief that the speaker is mumbling, when in fact they are experiencing the early stages of hearing loss without even realizing it. Research shows it takes the average person seven years to seek treatment for hearing loss.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Hearing Loss
The sooner you treat hearing loss, the better your outcome will be. It’s important to recognize the symptoms, which include:
- Asking others to repeat themselves
- The belief that people are mumbling when they speak
- Difficulty following conversations over noisy backgrounds
- Listening to the TV or radio at loud volumes
- Avoiding social gatherings in noisy places
Often, it is somebody close to the individual – a spouse, family member, or friend – who first recognizes the hearing loss and encourages the person to seek help.
The good news is, your audiologist in Tucson can offer solutions for hearing loss that will help you reconnect with friends and loved ones and enjoy a high quality of life. If you are experiencing any of the signs listed above, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with an audiologist as soon as possible. Even if everything appears to be okay, scheduling a hearing test is an excellent way to spot trouble early.