Human hearing tends to worsen over time, which is why many of us associate hearing loss with older individuals. In reality, though, people can develop hearing loss at any age. As many as 15 percent of American adults over the age of 18 report hearing loss, and that percentage jumps up to 50 by the time we reach age 75.
A lot of people are unaware they have hearing loss because it creeps up on them gradually. On average, people wait a whopping seven years before receiving treatment. Unfortunately, if you wait that long for testing, your relationships and mental health may suffer in the meantime.
Hearing Loss Symptoms
If you aren't sure you're displaying symptoms of hearing loss, an online questionnaire or test can help you assess the situation. Try this fun quiz from Healthy Hearing and this one from the National Institutes of Health to get a general sense of your hearing abilities.
Also watch out for the telltale signs of hearing loss, such as:
- Turning up the volume – Your family may complain that the TV or music is unbearably loud, or you may not be able to hear when someone else is controlling the electronics.
- Asking others to repeat themselves – If you're always saying "huh?" or "what?" or your family and friends are frequently annoyed that they have to repeat themselves, hearing loss may be at play. This symptom may become especially pronounced in crowded places and on phone or video calls.
- Inability to hear certain voices – You may find it harder to hear when a woman or child is talking, as their voices have a higher pitch. This may also happen with certain consonant sounds.
- Missing common sounds – High-pitched sounds like cell phone alerts, microwave beeps, bird chirps and car turn signals may be inaudible to you.
- Ringing in your ears – This condition is called tinnitus. Frequent tinnitus is annoying and a precursor to more severe hearing loss.
- Withdrawal from social situations – You may feel embarrassed or anxious about speaking with people when you cannot understand them. This may cause you to stay home from events or isolate yourself completely.
- Decline in mental health – The shame some people feel about hearing loss and their subsequent social withdrawal can lead to depression or anxiety.
Keep in mind that children and infants will experience a different set of symptoms and may not be able to articulate what they can and cannot hear. Children with hearing loss may not respond to their name, startle when there is a loud noise or hit standard milestones for language and speech acquisition.
What Happens During a Hearing Test?
Hearing tests are safe, quick and completely pain-free procedures. Your test will be conducted by an audiologist, a medical professional who specializes in hearing and the ears.
First, the audiologist will examine the basic structure of your ears with an otoscope and see if there is any earwax buildup that may be contributing to your hearing loss. In some cases, earwax removal may be all that's needed to restore hearing.
If this is not the case, your audiologist will proceed with several tests. In the pure-tone test, you will wear a set of headphones and listen to a series of single tones that sound like drawn-out beeps. You will have to indicate when you hear the tone by raising your arm or pushing a button. The beeps will be played in a variety of pitches and volumes so the audiologist can accurately ascertain your hearing threshold.
Sometimes a speech test will be given in addition to the pure-tone test. Instead of listening to tones, you will listen to snippets of speech. The audiologist will then ask you to repeat the sentence you heard. This test indicates your ability to understand casual conversation in real life.
Your audiologist may also conduct tympanometry if they believe your hearing loss may be due to a malfunction with the middle ear. This test is simple – they will place a probe in your ear that measures how the air pressure in your ear changes in response to sound. You must avoid moving or swallowing so the probe gets accurate measurements. This test rules out fluid in the middle ear, ear infection and problems with the eardrum or Eustachian tubes as the source of your hearing loss.
Receive a Hearing Evaluation at West Texas Rehabilitation Center
It can be tempting to ignore hearing loss, especially if your symptoms are few and far between. However, if you suspect you have a hearing problem, it is recommended you meet with an audiologist right away since many solutions exist to partially restore hearing.
At West Texas Rehabilitation Center, our Audiology Department provides quality hearing evaluations. We will let you know the extent of your hearing loss, what is causing it and how to treat it. If hearing aids are an appropriate solution, we offer a 60-day trial period as well as free cleanings for the life of your device. Complete our online hearing assessment or call us to schedule your appointment today!
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