If you can’t hear what is going on around you, how do you know what you’re missing? Hearing loss is a difficult thing to recognize in yourself. It is estimated that 48 million people in this country suffer from some degree of hearing loss, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. So, what signs should you look for if you suspect that you might be losing your hearing? Sometimes, it’s what is not heard that matters.
Medically, ringing in the ear is called tinnitus, and it can be a sign of significant hearing loss. Although most associate this anomaly with ringing, you might hear other sounds, such as:
It is also sometimes described as the sound you hear when you hold a seashell to your ear. Tinnitus is very common, especially after the age of 40, and can be debilitating, if severe.
About 90 percent of the time, tinnitus is due to hearing loss, but it can be a sign of infection or circulatory problems, as well. If you find yourself complaining about ringing in the ear or noises you can’t hear, it is important to see a doctor to determine the cause.
What? It’s something you might find yourself repeating, especially if you can’t figure out why you can’t understand what others are saying. A healthy ear amplifies sound as it travels to the inner ear for interpretation. When you have hearing loss, you lose that capability. So by the time sound gets to the inner ear, it is not loud enough to hear clearly any longer. The end result of that type of conductive hearing loss is muffled words.
You may feel embarrassment, because you can’t hear words clearly. Instead of speaking up and asking for someone to repeat themselves or speak louder, you might find yourself withdrawing from the conversation or losing interest – since you can’t hear what’s going on anyway. This can alert you that, instead of hearing clearly, the sounds you’re hearing are muffled.
Enhanced Background Noise
People with hearing loss might have problems separating background noise from other sounds. The refrigerator is humming, the fan is blowing, a crowd of people are talking – the louder the background noise the harder it is to focus on individual conversations or the sounds.
When you suffer hearing loss, excess noise confuses your inner ear. It has a hard time filtering out meaningless white noise from the sounds that matter like conversation. If you complain that the wind is too loud or that you cannot hear over the fan, it can indicate some hearing problems.
Pitch ranges become difficult to interpret with hearing loss – certain voices may seem to cut in and out during conversation, or some notes might suddenly disappear when listening to music. For a person struggling to hear, it sounds like a sudden pause or a dip the volume. If you are paying attention, you might see lips moving, but hear no sound. You might even hear something faint in the background, but not recognize it.
This usually results in a need to turn up the volume. For example, when using the computer, the television, or the phone, you might find yourself reaching for the volume control – as upping the volume can eliminate the pauses.
With the right hearing aid, those mystery noises disappear and sound becomes clearer. If someone you are hearing things you shouldn’t, or not hearing things you should, it’s probably time to talk about getting a hearing aid, so you are on the same wavelength again.
Do you think you might be experiencing hearing loss? How were you able to notice the problem?