Early Signs and Symptoms of Hearing Loss

Hearing can sometimes be sudden, but in most cases, it occurs gradually as we age, and you may not realize it at first. It’s estimated that one-third of the total population in the US aged between 65 and 75 suffer from some degree of hearing loss. Globally, more than 360 million people (around five percent of the world’s population) live with hearing loss, 32 million of them being children. If detected early, hearing loss can be prevented or managed. So, what are the early signs of hearing loss?

Common Sounds Start to Disappear

Take a moment and listen to your surroundings. You’ll hear all sorts of sounds, from birds singing, crickets chirping to cars passing in the distance or sirens fading away in the distance. All these are common sounds that you may or may not have noticed.

One of the early symptoms of hearing loss is when these sounds start to feel like they are very distant, while in reality, they are not.

Children’s Voices Sound Muffled

The inner ear organ responsible for hearing, the cochlea, losses its functionality as you age. The cells that detect high-pitched sounds are the first to fail. This makes it difficult to understand high-pitched sounds and voices like those of children and women.

You Strain to Hear What’s Being Said

Since your ability to hear clearly is impeded, your brain strains to fill in the gaps to make sense of what people are saying. This takes a toll on your brain, especially where many people are talking at a time. Such strain leaves you feeling tired and worn out after social events. If you’ve experienced this, seek help from your doctor or audiologist as early as now.

You No Longer Hear Consonant Sounds

If you’re over 75 years old and have developed presbycusis (age-related hearing loss), you may have lost your ability to hear consonant sounds S, F, Th, Sh, V, K, and P. These are the sounds that help us distinguish like-sounds, such as ‘keep’ and ‘peep’ or ‘show’ and ‘throw’. That’s why you may find yourself misunderstanding part of conversations sometimes. That is, you can hear but can’t understand.

You Experience Ringing in Your Ears

Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is said to affect more than 50 million people in the US, according to reports by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It is a condition that can be both age-related or noise-induced. According to researchers, the constant ringing may be the brain’s way of filling in the missing frequencies that it’s no longer getting from your auditory system.

Difficulty Hearing Someone on the Phone

If people have to speak loudly on the phone when talking to you, then your hearing loss is advancing. You’ll find yourself constantly asking people to repeat themselves and it can be particularly hard to hear someone in a noisy, crowded place.

Difficulty Following Conversations in Noisy Places

If you have a problem hearing high-pitched noise, then it can extremely difficult for you to hear conversations in noisy places. Instead, the background noises inundate the speech around you, making it hard for you to make out what’s being said.

You’re Watching People’s Lips Instead of Making Eye Contact

When you no longer hear what’s being said clearly, the brain looks for ways to compensate for the loss of one sense. That’s why you may notice that you look at someone’s lips to ‘see’ the sounds that they are making so that you can make out the words being spoken.

You Crank Up Your TV’s Volume

If other people start complaining that the TV volume is too loud, it’s a sign that your hearing ability is gradually deteriorating. The thing is, when you have hearing problems, it becomes harder to make out what the sound coming from the speakers. The bass tones sound more overwhelming to the extent that you can’t hear high tones. Therefore, you crank up the volume to be able to hear dialogues. Other signs and symptoms of hearing loss include:

  • Your hearing is worse when sound comes from one side
  • You can’t tell where sound is coming from as quickly as you used to
  • You talk very loudly

Causes of Hearing Loss Apart from age, hearing loss can also be caused by:

  • Damage to the inner ear
  • A buildup of earwax to the extent that it clogs your ears
  • Ruptured eardrum caused by loud blasts of noise
  • Ear infection, abnormal bone growth, or tumors in the outer or middle ear

How to Manage Hearing Loss

Hearing loss, especially high-frequency hearing loss, which is typically caused when hair cells in the ear get damaged, can be treated with hearing aids or cochlear implants. Thanks to the marvels of technology, you can now get advanced gadgets that amplify the high frequencies that your brain is missing. If you experience any of these signs of hearing loss, don’t wait until it becomes a full-blown issue. It’s important to see your doctor immediately for advice on diagnosis and treatment since hearing loss affects people differently.

All images by Shutterstock

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