One-third of Americans ages 65 to 74, and two-thirds of people 75 and over have hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss can occur subtly over time, so you might not know your hearing has deteriorated. That’s why it’s important to be aware of hearing loss symptoms.
Untreated hearing loss has a direct correlation to patients developing Alzheimer’s, dementia and depression. So, it’s essential to determine if you have hearing loss so you can act to protect your health.
Common Signs of Hearing Loss
Sounds appear muffled or quiet: Damage to the hair cells in your inner ear makes it difficult to hear certain speech and ambient noises, especially consonant sounds such as “s,” “f,” “sh” and “th.”
Asking others to repeat themselves, speak up or talk slowly: Does it seem like other people just aren’t speaking loud enough? Do you ask people to talk louder or repeat what they said regularly? If so, you could have hearing loss.
An inability to follow conversations: It’s difficult to keep up with a conversation if you have hearing loss, especially if you’re talking over the phone.
Trouble hearing women and children: It’s not unusual to struggle to hear high-frequency sounds if you’re living with hearing loss. You may find the higher-pitched voices of women and children particularly difficult to perceive.
Distracted by background noise: Do you strain to hear conversations in noisy settings like restaurants? Your brain can’t effectively filter background noise if you have hearing loss.
Turning up your TV or radio: Loved ones often notice that symptom before you do, especially if you frequently raise the volume to uncomfortable levels.
Withdrawing from social settings: Attempting to keep up with conversation might make you want to avoid socializing. Be mindful of how often you skip gatherings and outings as it may be indicative of hearing loss.
Hearing Loss Risk Factors
- Short- or long-term exposure to loud sounds
- Earwax buildup
- Abnormal bone growths in your middle ear
- Genetic conditions
- Ototoxic medications like diuretics, cancer treatment drugs and some antibiotics
- Illness such as high fever or infection
- Head, ear or neck injuries
- Medical conditions, including diabetes and heart disease
Hearing Loss Prevention
One of the most important precautions is to wear hearing protection in loud environments. That includes wearing earplugs or headphones on the job if you work in places with constant noise, like warehouses and construction sites.
Hearing protection is also important if you enjoy hobbies that expose you to loud sounds, such as playing music, woodworking or shooting.
Eliminate tobacco use as it can interfere with your auditory nerve function, restrict the blood vessels in your ears and irritate your middle ear.
Living with unregulated high blood pressure can damage the delicate mechanisms in your inner ear because they are sensitive to changes in blood flow. Address any chronic health conditions that affect your circulation or blood pressure.
Why You Need a Yearly Hearing Test
It’s important to get a hearing test before you notice symptoms of hearing loss. That allows you to preserve your remaining hearing ability and provides your audiologist with a baseline for your hearing health.
Completing an in-person hearing evaluation may confirm your suspicions about your hearing loss. Your results will determine the course of your hearing treatment and guide your audiologist’s recommendations.
Audio Help Hearing Centers also offers a free online hearing test you can take at home. You’ll need a pair of earbuds, headphones or quality speakers and a quiet place to listen.