The ability to hear well is one of life’s true blessings and when hearing loss occurs, said life can be a challenge, the loss a hard thing to accept and ultimately face. There are now so many possibilities when it comes to treatment and restoring some level of clear hearing. Solutions such as hearing aids, which not only offer the right amplification to process sounds and conversation – it keeps your brain stimulated and healthy.
An audiologist can help, but the hearing impairment needs to be acknowledged first. We understand that sometimes it is hard to detect a hearing loss, as many don’t know what a healthy ear should hear. Deciding to book an appointment for a hearing test is so important in this process and the success of your hearing journey. Like with anything, concerning your health, early diagnosis is vital and the first step to recovery and receiving the right treatment.
Delaying booking an appointment could cause more permanent damage to your hearing. The longer you wait, without treatment and amplification, your perception of sound can change. Here we discuss the signs to look out for that indicate there might be a problem with your hearing.
1. Turning up the volume
This is the most common sign and perhaps the easiest one you can spot independently. We don’t mean the ‘now-and-then’ occurrence when you want to drown out the sound of someone chopping in the kitchen – we mean the regular need to turn up the volume every day. This in itself suggests your ears have a problem. This may be due to a long period of wax build-up – nevertheless, it’s important to reach out and seek professional help.
2. Difficulty in understanding speech
“Sorry, could you repeat that?” is completely normal when it happens sporadically, it’s when you are having to ask this quite often that raises cause for concern. Having difficulty in understanding speech when you are in a challenging hearing situation and background noise is a big indication of hearing loss – as well as struggling to comprehend consonants.
3. Repositioning your body to hear
If you have to twist your body to hear someone or something, may mean that you have a hearing loss in one ear. We often have patients telling us they started cupping their hands to eradicate background noise, so they could hear better. These are both signs you have potential problems with your hearing, especially single-sided. These methods helped our patients for a limited time before their hearing deteriorated and left them with more damage than they would have had if they sought help earlier.
4. Unable to recognise certain pitches and tones
Loss of hearing can present itself in the form of being unable to hear various pitches and tones. These tones and pitches could be ring tones, doorbells or alarms. If you are finding that you are missing these types of sounds, then an ear problem is the most probable cause. It is also important to remember that losing the ability to hear and recognise sounds of nature, like birdsong, is also a sign to look out for.
People who are suffering from hearing loss will spend their days straining to hear conversations without being conscious of it. They may lip-read, move closer to the conversation or divert utter focus on the person speaking to them, rather than their surrounding soundscape. This causes the sufferer to become exhausted, as straining to concentrate constantly takes its toll. This will only increase, as the level of hearing loss escalates.
The dangers of limited amplification
Normally when you hear sound it’s due to your ear detecting vibration in the air and transmitting that via the inner ear to the auditory nerve. This carries signals to the brain, which then processes the signal into the daily noise and speech sounds you are familiar with.
For the auditory cortex to work properly it needs to be used – like any other muscle in the body. When this muscle doesn’t get used, it becomes weak. The brain is just the same. If signals stop reaching it – it will transpire energy elsewhere. When you can hear well the brain can identify speech sounds from the chaos of background noise and understand them. For people with hearing loss, this ability is lost.
This is why early diagnosis and treatment is paramount. The longer you ignore the signs the worse your hearing will get and ultimately your quality of life. Early intervention will defer further hearing difficulties, ensuring that the hearing nerves and auditory cortex are used to their full capability.
– This article was written by Paul Harrison, Audiology Expert and Founder of Hearing Aid UK.
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