When you think ‘Hearing Loss’, you might think that it’s strictly a problem for older people. But the signs of hearing loss often reveal themselves a long time before your golden years.
There is nothing stopping you from developing it at any age, and many do. According to the NIDCD, 26 million Americans age 20 to 69 have high-frequency hearing loss from being exposed to loud noise at work and during leisure activities, also called Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). This figure also includes 1 in 14 Gen-Xers, aged 29-40.
As the danger of hearing loss is present at any age, we should be vigilant and recognize the signs so that we may take action in due time. Here are 9 signs which suggest you could have hearing loss:
Your ears feel blocked. Once in a while this happens when there’s a lot of wax or liquid in your ears. However, if your doctor finds that your ears look clear, you should think about a hearing test. Age-related hearing loss can lead to sounds appearing muffled, which you might interpret as a blockage.
You have ringing or buzzing in the ears. A performance by one of your favorite bands can be one of the most exhilarating experiences ever. But when the music stops, the dreaded ringing or humming in the ears often sticks around for a few hours. This is a sign that you’ve injured the nerve cells of hearing in your inner ear. For the first few times, your ears can recover without issues. But if you keep exposing yourself to prolonged loud sounds, the ringing could become more persistent, and it might not go away. If this happens, this is one of the first signs of hearing damage and it’s time to book a hearing test. And for future shows, it’s best to use earplugs to protect yourself from the noise.
You find it hard to understand children. With noise-induced hearing loss, the cochlea (the inner ear organ that helps you hear) begins to wear down with repeated overexposure to loud sounds. As this occurs, the ear cells that detect high-pitched sounds are usually the first to go. You might find that groups of people with higher frequency voices may be more difficult to understand, such as women and children. It’s also for this reason that you might not hear sounds like alarm clocks and microwave beeps.
Your friends mumble too much. The buzz of shopping centers and cafes is usually low-pitched, while numerous sounds that we use in our words, for example, “f” and “s,” are sharp. On the off chance that you experience difficulty hearing the high tones, the background noise can become louder than speech itself. With noise-induced hearing loss, these sounds become more difficult to ignore.
You’re looking at your friends’ lips as they talk. When one sense doesn’t function just as it used to, the brain switches to using another of your sense to compensate – namely, your eyes. When a person says the “f” or “p” sound – it’s easier to see these sounds without having to hear them. This might make you look at the speaker’s mouth as your hearing declines.
You practice ‘social bluffing’. Those with hearing loss often engage in ‘social bluffing’, or pretending to hear. They might act like they understand when really, they have no idea. A person with hearing loss might smile and nod along, or respond with vague expressions such as ‘that’s interesting’ or ‘uh-huh.’ They might even notice other people’s reactions, and start laughing along if they see that other people are laughing.
You’re exhausted after seeing your friends. When you can’t hear every one of the sounds when in a public place, your mind tries to fill in the holes so that you can understand what people are saying. This requires tremendous focus, particularly when there’s more than one individual talking at any given moment. All of this may leave you feeling mentally exhausted at social events. If this sounds like you, it might be worth treating your hearing. Many hearing aids come with features that help you understand speech better in noisy environments.
Your spouse starts noticing your hearing loss. If others in your house start mentioning that the TV is too loud, it’s time to get your hearing checked. Many people tend to ignore clues that their hearing is failing them. But your spouse or partner can be more aware of the change than you are. “I see this all the time. Often the person with hearing loss is not the first to realize the problem. It’s a family member or friend who’ll bring the issue to the person’s attention,” according to Dr. Felipe Santos, a hearing specialist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.