Hearing loss isn’t always straightforward. It often develops gradually over a long period of time – it’s very unlikely you’ll wake up one morning totally deaf. Although if you do, don’t ignore it: be sure to seek urgent medical attention.
The majority of hearing loss cases creep up almost unnoticed. The brain has a remarkable ability to smooth over the cracks and make us think that our hearing is working correctly. In fact, it takes an average of 10 years before many people even realise they have hearing loss.
So how can you tell your hearing is getting worse?
If you answer ‘yes’ to any one of these questions, it’s time to come in for a hearing test.
Do you ask friends and family to talk more loudly?
Everyone speaks at a different volume, so from time to time we all need to ask those around us to speak up. But if it happens regularly, or you’ve noticed it becoming more frequent, then it might be a sign of early stage hearing loss.
Do you ask people to repeat themselves?
Again, it’s natural that we don’t always hear every single word, but if you continually feel like people are mumbling, or feel like you’re asking people to repeat themselves more often than you used to, it could be a sign of mild hearing loss.
Do you need to turn the volume up on your TV?
Another difficult one to track over time, but it’s worth keeping an eye on. Most modern TVs display a number value for the volume, so make a note of the volume that you feel comfortable with and see if you need to take it up over time. If you find you’re often pumping up the volume, book a hearing test and get a proper assessment.
Do you struggle to hear during telephone conversations?
Normal telephone calls don’t have the best audio quality even at the best of times, but if your phone is at full volume and it’s still a struggle, get yourself booked in for a hearing test. For greater clarity, try using smartphone services like WhatsApp, FaceTime or Skype to help improve audio quality (but make sure you have a robust mobile phone data plan first – if in doubt, ask your service provider).
Do you have difficulty understanding consonant sounds?
There are two types of hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is usually caused by an obstruction in the ear, whether a foreign body or bone growth. This type of hearing loss makes all sounds equally difficult to hear, from soft to loud. Sensorineural hearing loss is the one we’re all more familiar with. Types of sensorineural hearing loss includes age-related hearing loss, and it causes distortion and loss of clarity – meaning softer sounds will be harder to hear and less well-defined than louder sounds. In normal conversation, softer consonant sounds such as ‘f’ and ‘s’ can be difficult to hear. Listen out for these sounds next time you’re in conversation and see if they’re lost against the background noise.
Are you happier being at home, or do you avoid noisy environments or social events?
This is a lesser-known effect of hearing loss: a reluctance to engage with social situations, causing hearing loss sufferers to withdraw from friendship groups, family events and anywhere which ‘tests’ their hearing.
Luckily, hearing aids can help transform lives – and there’s now a huge range available. If you tried hearing aids a few years ago and were put off, you might be surprised by the advances in technology in recent years. Come in to your nearest Hearing Care Partnership store to find out more.