Did you know that hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the United States? As an invisible condition, hearing loss is not often discussed. Its association with old age has also made it something of a taboo. Approximately one in three older Americans, age 65 and older, experience hearing loss. For those over age 75, the numbers increase to 50%.
At the same time, hearing loss is a growing issue among younger populations, according to the World Health Organization. The prolonged and ubiquitous use of personal electronic devices and earbuds has contributed to younger generations being at risk for hearing loss.
Because it often occurs gradually, hearing loss may be challenging to identify at first. Most hearing specialists estimate that it takes an average of seven years from the time people first experience changes in their hearing until they decide to seek help. During this time, untreated hearing loss does take a toll on one’s overall health and well-being.
To prevent the consequences of untreated hearing loss, it is essential to know the signs of hearing loss. Here we outline the most common tell-tale signs.
You like it loud
Think about the last time you watched TV or listened to the radio with someone. Did that person ask you to turn down the volume? Even if you don’t usually watch TV with someone, check the volume on your remote control. If the volume is turned up very high (60% or above), you may be experiencing hearing loss.
Often, we aren’t aware of the changes in our hearing, but we’ll find unconscious ways to adapt to our hearing abilities. Turning up the volume to a very high volume is a way to cope with our changing hearing abilities.
You find it hard to understand those around you.
Speech recognition becomes very difficult when you begin to experience hearing loss. In some circumstances, you may find yourself misunderstanding what people say – whether it is a confusion of words or confusing similar sounds such as “s” or “th,” or “b” and “p.”
Additionally, speakers’ voices have different frequencies. People with hearing loss often find it difficult to understand people with higher frequency voices, such as women and children.
For those experiencing hearing loss, conversations with multiple speakers are one of the most challenging situations. It may sound like people are mumbling in other circumstances, and you’ll ask them to repeat themselves. In reality, they may not be mumbling at all, and it is the changes in your hearing that have made it difficult for you to focus on specific speakers’ voices and recognize what they are saying.
Hearing loss has been linked to isolation and social withdrawal as a result. This may cause you to distance yourself from your loved ones. Because communication is the foundation of healthy relationships, difficulties with speech recognition due to hearing loss could lead to frustration, misunderstandings, and conflicts.
You have begun to withdraw from family and friends.
Since hearing loss happens gradually, you may not notice it right away. Instead, you may be frustrated that people around you are mumbling (see above) or just not speaking clearly.
Untreated hearing loss has been linked to an increased rate of anxiety, stress, and depression. It has also been linked to increased social isolation and withdrawal, negatively affecting interpersonal relationships. People with untreated hearing loss tend to withdraw from their hobbies and favorite activities.
If you find significant yet inexplicable changes in your mood and behavior, it may indicate a hearing loss.
Your work performance is suffering
With the difficulties with speech recognition, people with untreated hearing loss may begin to retreat from social events. Background noise interferes with clear hearing for those with hearing loss, so parties and gatherings in busy spaces may prove particularly difficult.
Studies have shown that employees with untreated hearing loss tend to have less earning power than their colleagues with normal hearing or hearing treated with hearing aids. There may also be increased difficulties in the workplace, with problems in communication. This could eventually cause frustration with colleagues and affect productivity.
Social withdrawal and avoidance of integral interpersonal relationships are significant signs of hearing loss. If you – or someone you love – have begun to withdraw emotionally, consider the possibility of hearing loss as a cause.
What to do about your hearing loss
If you believe you are experiencing hearing loss, or if you believe your loved one may be struggling with hearing loss, it is essential to schedule an appointment with us! We provide comprehensive hearing tests, the first steps toward better hearing health. By identifying and treating hearing loss early on, you ensure your overall health and well-being.