Roughly one out of every five Tucson residents has hearing loss. Surprisingly, not everybody with a hearing impairment is aware of their problem. Hearing loss is less obvious than you might realize. We’d like to take advantage of the fact that October is National Audiology Awareness Month by sharing some signs that you may have a hearing problem.
Hearing Loss Can Be Difficult to Notice
In most cases, hearing loss occurs very gradually. Statistics bear this out: it takes the average person in Arizona with hearing loss seven years to see an audiologist. It’s not that they are lazy, or their schedule is booked 2,556 days in advance, either; when hearing starts to fade, the brain compensates by diverting cognitive resources from other areas in order to focus on external sounds. This may seem like a good thing, but some of those key areas include memory and concentration. Left untreated, hearing loss can lead to isolation, withdrawal, anxiety, fatigue, depression, and dementia. Obviously, the sooner you seek the help of a hearing professional, the better.
The following are all signs that you may have a hearing problem.
- You’re saying “huh?” a lot and asking others to repeat themselves. We all have trouble picking up on words or snippets of conversation on occasion, but when you find yourself repeatedly straining to understand what is said, there may be more going on here. And no, everybody in the world did not suddenly take up mumbling! Your brain will begin to try to fill in the gaps, which can lead to potentially embarrassing situations. Pretending you’ve heard something by nodding your head or saying “yes” can backfire – especially when your conversation partner hasn’t even asked you a question. You’ll rarely fool anybody.
- Your spouse hides the remote because you’re watching television too loudly. Often the first sign of hearing loss is watching television or listening to music at a volume level others find uncomfortably loud. Yes, the “Happy Days” theme song is catchy. No, you do not need to play it so loudly the neighbors three doors down are “rockin’ and rollin’ all week long,” too!
- You’re having trouble with telephone conversations. Many people prefer texting to actual telephone conversations, but if you’re old-fashioned (it’s okay – own it!) and prefer speaking into a phone rather than typing on one, and have trouble understanding what others are saying, you can blame “a bad connection” all you want – but the real “bad connection” is likely between your brain and your ears, the result of damage to the hair cells of your cochlea that are responsible for transmitting sensory information to your brain.
- You notice a ringing in your ears. A persistent ringing in the ears is a classic sign of tinnitus (or an unanswered telephone). It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re experiencing hearing loss, but the two are often closely connected. If you’re thinking, “Whew – no ringing in my ears! Just a buzzing,” you’re not off the hook. Tinnitus can take many forms, including roaring, hissing, whooshing, clicking, and whistling. Any phantom noise in your ears is indicative of tinnitus.
- You find it especially hard to communicate when background noise is present. Bars and restaurants are notoriously loud. Most of us can handle the background noise, but for those with hearing loss, going out becomes a chore. The best margarita in the world won’t offset the constant struggle to hang onto every word when going out in public.
- You find yourself avoiding social situations. When communicating in public becomes a struggle, the natural inclination is to avoid putting yourself in that situation in the first place. People with hearing loss begin to retreat from social interactions in order to avoid the strain and embarrassment of ineffective communication.
If you are noticing any of these signs, don’t pretend they are nothing. Get your hearing checked by a Tucson audiologist! Untreated hearing loss is no laughing matter. The sooner you seek the advice of a professional, the better your odds will be for successful long-term treatment.