Have Hearing Loss? Why It’s Important to Treat It Right Away.

Grandparents playing with their grandchildren
Mature friends laughing at a lunch

With age comes wisdom and something none of us want. Do you know what it is?

It’s an inconvenient truth. Age-related hearing loss affects one in three adults over the age of 65… and it’s not just those over 65 that have to worry. Hearing loss is on the rise across all age groups and demographics. 

Detecting and treating hearing loss is crucial, as untreated hearing loss can have long-lasting implications for your physical and mental health.

What are the most common types of hearing loss?

Hearing loss generally falls under three categories, defined by the underlying causes of symptoms.

Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss occurs in the outer or middle ear. Conductive hearing loss is often associated with some type of obstruction. For example, an ear infection can cause swelling and fluid build-up that subsequently interferes with your ability to hear. In other cases, conductive hearing loss can be caused by something as simple as a buildup of earwax. This is usually a temporary type of hearing loss that can be fixed with a simple procedure, medicine, or on rare occasions, surgery.

Sensorineural hearing loss: This hearing loss occurs in the inner ear, often due to nerve damage. This type of hearing loss is incurable and tends to get worse with time. When people talk about “age-related hearing loss,” they’re usually referring to sensorineural hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is usually treated with hearing aids or a cochlear implant if you’re a candidate.

Mixed or combination hearing loss: This is when you have a combination of both types of hearing loss. This type may require more than one type of treatment, including hearing aids.

Hearing loss is often caused by exposure to loud noise, but it can also be caused by illness, injury, exposure to toxins, heredity, and other factors.

How to tell if you have hearing loss – Look for these symptoms

How do you know if you have hearing loss or it’s just everyone around you mumbling? Hearing loss can be difficult to self-diagnose, in large part because the symptoms progress quite slowly. Your brain has its own mechanisms for compensating when your ears aren’t functioning quite right, so you may find yourself unconsciously turning up your television volume rather than seeking out help for your hearing loss or even lip-reading. 

There are several early signs of hearing loss:

  • Conversation sounds muffled or distant.
  • Some consonant sounds are difficult to discern.
  • It’s difficult to make out conversation when there’s background noise.
  • Withdrawal or avoidance of social situations.
  • Unexplained fatigue or memory lapses.
Multi-generational family enjoying a dinner outside

Are you hearing complaints from family or friends about having the volume too high? Or that you ask them to repeat themselves a lot? Those are signs too.

If you feel as though you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment so you can undergo a hearing aid test. Hearing aid tests will be able to detect whether you have hearing loss and to what extent it might have advanced, paving the way for effective treatment.

Why procrastination can damage your hearing and increase hearing loss

Why wait until it’s too late to do anything?

Left untreated, hearing loss can cause significant complications for your health. Because conversations are challenging, people with untreated hearing loss tend to withdraw socially–they visit friends less frequently, talk to others less often, and so on. Over time, this can lead to significant mental health challenges, such as depression and anxiety.

There’s also a significant amount of evidence to suggest that untreated hearing loss substantially increases your risk for the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. The best way to lower these risks is to ensure your hearing loss is addressed with hearing aids.

9 Myths About Hearing Loss

Over the last few decades there have been huge advances in both our understanding of hearing loss and the technology used to solve hearing problems. Unfortunately, most peoples’ assumptions about their hearing are outdated or plain wrong.

Before you put off treatment for another day, discover the truth about hearing loss.

Myth 1 – I’d know if I had hearing loss:

The truth is that hearing loss is so gradual that you may not notice it right away. As your hearing loss increases, you may compensate by turning up the volume or by always asking people to repeat themselves. Denial is most people’s first reaction to hearing loss, followed by blaming others for mumbling or keeping the TV volume too low. We all tend to be stubborn, but the fact is, if your friends or family members are telling you that you have hearing loss, you probably do.  Especially when you consider that your odds of having hearing loss are 1 in 5.

Remember that people without hearing loss don’t need to convince others that “I can hear just fine!” If you’ve been told that you need a hearing test, it’s time to get one.

Myth 2 – It’s not worth the trouble to improve my hearing:

Maybe to you it isn’t worth it, but just ask the people around you how they feel. It can drive your family nuts when they constantly have to repeat themselves or be driven out of the room by the volume of the TV. Seriously, hearing loss can lead to frustration, social withdrawal, and depression — even dementia. The best solution is to deal with hearing loss rather than act like it’s not a problem.

Myth 3 – It doesn’t matter if I put off getting hearing aids:

Hearing loss will get worse over time. Researchers even have a name for this: they call it auditory deprivation. The longer you ignore your hearing loss, the more hearing you’ll lose that can never be recovered. Hearing aids can help, but only if you have enough hearing left to be saved. And the longer you live with hearing loss, the harder it is to adjust to using hearing aids.

Myth 4 – If you’re hearing impaired, it’s just a matter of turning up the volume:

Sure, you can take that approach. But don’t expect to have the best relationships. When people know they’ll constantly have to repeat themselves, they tend to save themselves the trouble by avoiding you.

The right way to turn up the volume is with the use of professionally programmed hearing aids, so that you don’t have to turn up the volume on everyone else. Keep in mind that people resent being burdened when they know that someone could just as easily help themselves.

Myth 5 – Hearing aids won’t work for me:

Hearing aids work for almost everyone, but only if you use the right technology with the right settings. Will the cheap hearing aids that you can buy online without evaluation, fitting or adjustment from a hearing professional improve your hearing? Not likely.

On the other hand, if you work with your hearing specialist to find the right hearing aid, programmed for your specific hearing loss, fit and adjusted to your lifestyle, your hearing aids will almost certainly help you hear better.

Myth 6 – Hearing aids are ugly:

Not any more. It’s true that older models were large, and there were few options. Today you can choose from dozens of behind the ear, in ear or in the ear canal models. The newest models are sleek and small, with some types that fit completely inside the ear canal, making them nearly invisible.

Myth 7 – Hearing aids will make me look – and feel – old:

First, hearing loss affects people of all ages. Second, if you are experiencing hearing loss, constantly asking people to repeat themselves, missing parts of the conversation, and responding inappropriately makes you seem old! Stay young by hearing clearly and participating in conversations with confidence and without hesitation.

Myth 8 – I can save money by just getting one hearing aid:

You can save money by buying just one hearing aid or just one shoe, but we wouldn’t recommend either. There’s a reason you have two ears; you use them both to locate the source of sounds, to maintain balance, and to hear sound clearly regardless of the direction it’s coming from.  If you have hearing loss in both ears, you need two hearing aids.

Myth 9 – Hearing aids are expensive:

Some flat-screen Ultra-High Definition TVs retail for more than $8,000, but the millions of people who buy these don’t think they are too expensive. It’s all about value.

Hearing clearly is part of staying healthy, happy and active. How much is that worth to you? The hearing specialists at The Audiology Center will recommend the hearing aid options that best match your hearing needs, your lifestyle and your budget.