Identifying the Signs of Hearing LossSeptember 18, 2020
Are you concerned that you might have hearing loss? You’re not alone. According to the Hearing Foundation of Canada, “out of three million Canadians who have hearing loss, only one in six wear hearing aids.” Hearing loss is recognized as the third most common chronic health problem among elderly Canadians. Furthermore, hearing loss affects “10 percent of all Canadians, of which 25 percent are over the age of 45, and 50 per cent are over the age of 65.”
Hearing loss was once thought to be an unfortunate but innocuous aspect of getting older. In recent decades, we’ve learned that untreated hearing loss is linked to a variety of other serious, negative health outcomes. Accelerated age-related hearing loss can even be an early indicator of an underlying cardiovascular problem. If you think you might have hearing loss, it’s important to get a hearing test as soon as possible so you can start keeping up with your hearing health, which will help keep you in better general health.
Let’s take a look at some of the early signs that you might have hearing loss.
Conversational Difficulty and Fatigue
One of the first things people notice when hearing loss starts to creep in is having difficulty hearing speech over background noise. Usually at a restaurant or bar, you’ll start to notice that speech is blending into the background and you’ll need conversational partners to repeat themselves more often than you used to.
Listening in this way is tiring. Your brain has to do all the normal work of hearing, interpreting, thinking about what the other person is saying, and formulating responses; but because you’re not hearing clearly, your brain is also tasked with assembling the jigsaw puzzle of fragmented speech. That’s a significant amount of work to do by itself, and given that it’s happening during the course of a conversation, which already takes a good amount of brain power, you can see why a person might feel tired after a short while.
If you’re finding yourself having difficulty conversing in restaurants, bars, or even just larger groups in a relatively quiet place, you should get a hearing test and see what steps can be taken to keep you in the conversation. Many people mistake the fatigue associated with hearing loss for a separate age-related condition, and are surprised when a set of hearing aids helps them not only have an easier time conversing, but to feel fresh and energized for more of the day.
Other People Tell You You Have Hearing Loss
It’s never nice to hear from friends or loved ones, “You should get your hearing checked,” but often enough it turns out they’re right! It’s hard to gauge our own hearing loss because, unlike eyesight where the image becomes blurry or obstructed, hearing loss doesn’t make our hearing blurry, it simply makes us notice less of the sound around us.
We might think others are mumbling or speaking too quietly when it turns out we are missing a lot of high-frequency hearing ability. We might not hear the birds chirping when someone tries to draw our attention to them. Maybe we don’t hear the phone ring, or our friends or loved ones keep asking us to turn the television or radio down. Whatever the case, if someone else seems surprised that you’re missing out on sounds they’re hearing clearly, it’s a likely sign that you’re developing noticeable hearing loss. Your best bet is to get a hearing test and find out whether you do, and whether there’s anything that can be done about it.
Now Is the Time to Treat Hearing Loss
While some people naturally want to put off getting hearing aids until they’re “absolutely necessary,” it’s hard to determine just when that is. Hearing loss progresses slowly, and we don’t notice the daily incremental loss in our hearing ability. The tendency is for those with hearing loss to begin to shrink from social engagements and start to spend more time alone. It can also engender paranoia with friends, loved ones and caretakers.
We don’t wish for anyone to experience the decline in quality of life that hearing loss can cause, and the best way to avoid that is to treat hearing loss with hearing aids on the recommendation of an audiologist, following a hearing test. The Better Hearing Institute, a non-profit organization, recommends a hearing test once every decade until age 50, and once every three years after that. This way, you can keep regular tabs on your hearing health and make sure you’re not losing any more hearing than is normal for someone in your age group.