Hearing loss has a way of sneaking up on you. While it’s something that we traditionally write off as an inevitable part of aging, there are numerous causes of hearing loss although many are degenerative and in many cases we don’t realize the extent of our hearing loss until it’s gotten pretty bad. If you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves over and over again. If people accuse you of not listening to them or you have trouble realizing that people are talking to you half way through a conversation then these can be telling signs that you have hearing loss that you may not even be fully aware of.
Hearing loss can be a cause of embarrassment and anxiety to sufferers that is only exacerbated when it is left ignored and untreated. As people get more impatient with having to repeat themselves and the world around them feels more remote and alienating, sufferers of hearing loss can find themselves suffering severely damaging psychological effects. Here we’ll look at spotting the signs of hearing loss, the psychological and emotional impact that sufferers may undergo and the importance of identifying the cause and the effects that it may have on treatment as well as how people with hearing loss can help themselves and others around them better understand their condition.
Spotting the signs
Hearing loss in adults doesn’t just happen overnight. It often takes place over a period of years in increments so small that sufferers don’t even notice it day by day. While we may associate hearing loss with advanced age, it can be experienced at virtually any age, regardless of our general health and fitness. If you notice any of the following occurring on a daily basis then there’s a good chance that you’re experiencing hearing loss.
- You struggle to hear people talking to you on the phone
- You frequently feel that others are mumbling and often need them to repeat themselves
- You struggle to be part of conversations in busy places like malls, cafes, bars and restaurants.
- Your partner and friends accuse you of not listening.
- Your family often says that you have the TV or radio on too loud.
- You can’t tell where sound is coming from.
- Conversations require a great deal of conversations and become exhausting.
The psychological effects of hearing loss
The psychological impact of gradual hearing loss cannot be underestimated. It can alienate you from your partner and friends and leave you feeling isolated. It can cause people to become frustrated and irritated with you, negatively impacting your self-esteem. Moreover, coming to the realization that you are in fact losing your hearing is a genuine bereavement that requires emotional and psychological adjustment. As with any loss you can expect to feel anger, resentment and you may well be in denial of the existence or extent of your hearing loss. Once you’ve come to accept it as a reality of your life, however, you must not suffer in silence but seek help in identifying the cause of your hearing loss as this will be the first step to treating it.
Identifying the cause
Hearing loss can have a seriously detrimental effect on not only your ability to live your day to day life but on your mental health if left untreated. Thus, it’s important to seek the advice of an audiologist to correctly identify the cause of your hearing loss. In some cases it may even be something that can be reversed. Most common cases of hearing loss are attributed to either nerve damage (sensorineural hearing loss) or obstructions in the ear canal (conductive hearing loss). Many cases of hearing loss can be reversed by removing waxy buildup in the ear or removing lodged foreign objects from the ear canal. Likewise infections or pus buildup in the ear canal can be treated with an antibiotic. Some obstructions, however like perforation of the eardrums or Otosclerosis (an abnormal bone growth in the middle ear) cannot be reversed. Hearing loss caused by nerve damage, however, has a more diverse range of causes. It can be caused by aging, regular exposure to loud noises, viral infections, hereditary conditions like Meniere’s disease (which also affects your balance) and even lifestyle related conditions like obesity or excessive smoking can cause sensorineural hearing loss.This kind of hearing loss requires more comprehensive treatment that will likely remain with you for the rest of your life.
Treatment and tech
An audiologist will likely want to prescribe you a hearing aid. There was a time when hearing aids were ugly, bulky inefficient things but the advent of digital technology has made hearing aids much more discreet and effective. Whether you opt for a hearing aid that clips behind the ear or one that sits discreetly in the ear canal, most digital hearing aids are hard to detect, though it’s important to note that hearing aids require a period of adjustment. When you first start wearing a hearing aid you’ll likely experience a tinny buzzing in your ears. Over time your brain (which has gotten used to compensating for your hearing loss) will start to recognize these vibrations as sounds and adjust to the hearing aid over a period of weeks. It’s important to allow yourself this period of adjustment and stick with your hearing aids as frustrating as the transitional period may be. If your hearing loss makes phone conversations difficult the good news is that there are many phones for the hearing impaired available. They have hardware and software built-in that can not only elevate the volume but clarify speech by reducing background noise and even slow down talk speed to make speech easier to understand.
Openness and honesty
When you hearing loss has been diagnosed it’s important to take ownership of it and not to feel embarrassed. Being open and honest about it with friends and family will prevent them from getting impatient and irritated with you when they have to repeat themselves. They’ll also know that your hearing loss is outside of your control and that you’re not deliberately ignoring them.
Those around you can help by being patient and trying to speak more slowly and clearly in your presence.
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