Why is it that millions of Americans can always hear people speaking, but have great difficulty understanding what people are saying? Words seem to run together and although family member’s voices appear loud enough, they just don’t seem clear enough! These are the confusing symptoms associated with hearing loss, which has become our nation’s number one disability. Unfortunately, we find that many people are so confused or embarrassed by the peculiar symptoms of hearing loss that they fail to seek help until the condition gets to an extremely advanced stage. This can make it much more challenging to treat.
In early stages of hearing loss, people will notice that they miss the first or last word of a sentence and have to ask the speaker to repeat what was said. If you have a hearing impairment you may also interchange similar sounding words. Numbers can be confusing as well; you may not be sure if someone said 15 or 50, 16 or 60, 7 or 11.
Do you: Ask others to repeat themselves, especially women and children? Find it difficult conversing in groups and noisy places? Often turn up the volume of the TV? Complain about ringing in one ear or both? Have trouble hearing at a distance? Hear better in one ear than the other? If you answered yes to any of these questions it may be time for you to visit a physician to have your hearing screened.
If you have found yourself in any of the above situations and you still believe you do not have a hearing impairment, we recommend that you consciously self monitor such situations where communicating or hearing is difficult. Try actively monitoring your hearing for a few weeks to become aware of how the hearing loss affects your interaction with others.
Your awareness of difficulties, such as hearing higher pitch sounds, understanding in background noise, and participating in conversations with multiple speakers will help your hearing health care provider determine the most beneficial treatment for your particular type of hearing loss.
Often an undiagnosed hearing impairment is more noticeable than wearing a hearing aid. Ignoring a hearing impairment can lead to social isolation, cause or aggravate emotional disorders and strain relationships.
It is recommended that everyone over 50 years of age have a full audiometric hearing test every 2 to 3 years. This allows you to monitor changes in your hearing acuity and if hearing loss occurs you can correct it at an early stage.
We are finding that if hearing loss or understanding difficulty develops, the biggest factor that determines our success in treatment is catching the problem early and beginning the use of hearing equipment quickly.
To increase your awareness of how hearing loss might be affecting you, try periodically (e.g., every week) looking at the sample communication situations below and answering the question “How often does this happen to you?” using one of the following answers:
2. Once or twice a week
3. Several times each week
4. Many times
5. All the time
. In the past week, how often has a friend or family member accused you of not listening?
. How often do you find yourself intently watching the speaker’s mouth?
. How often do family members complain that you turn up the TV or radio much too loud?
. How often do you have difficulty with hearing alarm signals?
. How often do you have trouble hearing a voice from another room?
. How often do you have difficulty with hearing during conversations in a moving car?
. How often do you have difficulty with hearing during family dinners at holidays?
. During the past week, how often have you heard a person’s voice but it sounded like gibberish?
. During the past week, how often did you understand only part of what someone said?
. During the past week, how often did you find out someone was talking to you but you did not realize it?
Self-monitoring may help you realize that you do have hearing difficulties. These difficulties can cause problems not only for you, but also for family members, coworkers, and friends. If you scored 3 or more on these items it may be time to have your hearing tested. The earlier a hearing loss is detected, the better off you will be in the long run.
Research proves that the human brain adapts much easier to small changes. This means the happiest hearing loss patients are those whose problem is caught early when the first signs of misunderstanding occur. When very mild amplification is required, a patient’s success rate with hearing instruments is phenomenal. Mild amplification is usually a very smooth and pleasant transition for the patient. If a patient catches the
problem early, wears their instruments daily, and has annual retests with programming changes the success rate is wonderful.
Success rate drops dramatically if the hearing loss continues to get worse without proper attention requiring stronger hearing instruments in the beginning. Very few health problems benefit by delaying or neglecting treatment.