Difficulties with Communication Could Signal a Hearing Loss

“What was that again?”

If asking people to speak up or repeat themselves sounds familiar, you may be living with hearing loss. Changes in the way you hear aren’t always easy to notice – they often happen quite gradually so you don’t perceive the accumulating difficulties in your hearing day-to-day. A key component to notice is whether communication with others is becoming more challenging. Hearing loss doesn’t always sound like you would expect it to, so let’s take a look at some signs that may be signalling hearing loss.

Speech Sounds Muffled or Mumbled

The perception of many people is that hearing loss is indicated by a total -or near-total- lack of incoming sound. Instead, with most hearing loss you can still hear familiar sounds, but with a pronounced lack of clarity. People with hearing loss will often be able to hear a person talking, but will not be able to fully follow what they are saying. Words will increasingly sound muffled or mumbled and you may come to rely heavily on lip reading and other context clues to fully comprehend what is being said. Because our sense of high frequency hearing is the most vulnerable to hearing loss, high pitched voices, like those of children, are often the most difficult to accurately hear.

Asking People To Speak Up  and Repeat Themselves

Nearly everyone has had to ask for a missed word or phrase to be repeated to them, but when hearing loss is present, hearing difficulties occur frequently rather than occasionally. If you catch yourself asking for speech to be reiterated to you daily, it is a potential indicator that you are living with hearing loss. 

When hearing loss limits the clarity of the sound we hear, it can come to us sounding like other people’s mumbled speech is the core problem rather than our own hearing. However, most people speak with a volume and clarity legible to healthy hearing. While some people do mumble, if you are perceiving many people around you as speaking at an overly soft volume or with muffled speech, the issue may, in fact, be the way you are hearing them. Assess how often you ask for speech to be clarified – including situations where you wanted to ask but held back. If you need speech reiterated daily or from many different speakers it is time to schedule a hearing exam.

Social Avoidance

Another sign linked to communication and hearing challenges is a shift in your social behavior. As we’ve already outlined, hearing loss can make it difficult to comprehend speech and that, in turn, can limit our participation in conversations with others. When hearing loss makes following a conversation frustrating or exhausting it can transform our engagement with others from a pleasure into a burden. 

Difficulty hearing in noisy or crowded settings limits the enjoyment we receive from being in social settings and this diminished experience can change our social patterns dramatically. Hearing loss can subtly alter our experience of treasured experiences like parties or dinners with friends, as well as community around sports or church or school and entertainment like movies and concerts. 

Next time you decline an invitation, make an assessment of your reasoning. Will a noisy restaurant make it too hard to enjoy yourself? Do you not want to travel because the sounds of the train station are overwhelming and confusing? If you are denying yourself social activities, especially those you once valued, because of how you hear, it is time to consult with a hearing specialist.

Hidden Hearing Loss

In recent years, scientists and researchers have learned much more about a phenomenon commonly called “hidden” hearing loss. Hidden hearing loss occurs when there is permanent nerve damage occurring within the auditory nerve, while most hearing loss is caused by damage to the sensory cells of the inner ear. Those with hidden hearing loss can pass a standard tonal hearing test, but still struggle to comprehend speech in noisy situations. While hearing loss occurring within the inner ear is permanent, there may be the possibility of regenerating or repairing the nerve structures that cause hidden hearing loss. 

If you think you may be experiencing hearing loss, schedule an appointment with us today! 

Dealing with Noise Pollution in Your Neighborhood

Do you notice loud sounds in your surroundings on a daily basis? Our world is getting louder and the result is noise pollution that is harmful for your hearing and health. Noise pollution is environmental noise that pushes beyond safe thresholds for human hearing. It can be emitted from a singular source, or more often be a layering of different sounds. 

Noise exposure takes a toll on our health if we are not careful. Loud noise provokes stress responses in the body and can be a catalyst for anxiety. When we are hearing sounds, our mind has to devote energy and resources to comprehending them. Unrelenting noise means our brain has no “down time” to rest itself. Similarly, the very cells responsible for our sense of hearing need breaks from sound in order to avoid being permanently damaged by excessive noise. 

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

As introduced above, our hearing depends on the functioning of tiny sensory cells known as “hair cells” that line part of the inner ear. Hair cells are responsible for translating incoming sound vibrations in the air into a signal our mind can instantly interpret. Hair cells are powerful, but they have limits. Because they are very small and quite finely tuned, very loud sounds can strain them beyond their capacity. 

It is important to understand that hair cells cannot repair themselves. A damaged hair cell is permanently taken out of commission and when this happens to many hair cells, the result is called noise-induced hearing loss. 

Noise Pollution and Hearing Loss

How do we know when our hearing is threatened by loud sounds? Sound volume is measured in decibels (dB) which can help us understand when we may be exposing ourselves to harmful noise levels. The louder the sound, the less time we can be exposed to it without damaging our hearing. After you are around loud noises it is important to take a break in a quiet space to allow your hearing to recover from the stress of noise. 

At around 75 dB sound becomes a hazard to your hearing – around the volume of a vacuum cleaner. At this level, your hearing can sustain permanent damage if there is 24 hours of continual exposure. It is important to recognize that if the environmental noise of your daily life is consistently around 75 dB you will need to protect your hearing and find ways to bring quiet space into your daily routine. 

Sound exposure times shorten dramatically the louder the volume becomes. A factory floor usually projects around 85 dB of noise and damages hearing with just 8 hours of consistent exposure. A loud event like a rock concert will usually register at around 100 dB and cause permanent hearing injury in under 15 minutes. Sounds at volumes above 120 dB will cause instantaneous hearing damage. 

Monitoring Noise Pollution

So just how loud are your surroundings? When you recognize that you live or work around a lot of noise it will be important to determine just how much noise, on average, you are exposed to. Currently, many people take advantage of smartphone apps that can convert your phone into a convenient decibel meter. Using a tool like this, you can take readings from the typical settings you are in throughout your average day or week. 

Be on the lookout for sound levels above 75 dB, and especially for levels above 85 dB. If you are employed in a workplace with a consistent volume of 85 dB or higher, note that you have the right to workplace hearing protection under law. If your day is filled with harmful noise levels, it is time to protect your hearing and reduce the stress excess noise can cause. 

We are ready to connect you with effective and comfortable hearing protection fitted to your ear canal. Personal ear plugs reduce your noise exposure, preventing hearing loss and make it easier to cope with noisy surroundings. Contact us today!

How Hearing Aids Can Change Your Life  

Most people understand that hearing aids can help them manage hearing loss by bringing better clarity and comprehension to their hearing. Still, many don’t understand how investing in hearing aids is truly an investment in their overall health. This has resulted in a significant gap between the number of people who could benefit from using hearing aids and the number of people who choose to use hearing aids. 

Hearing loss can cause a big drop in your quality of life and health -that’s where treating hearing loss comes in. Treating hearing loss can make a big difference in your life – opening doors to friendships, experiences and opportunities you didn’t expect were possible. Treating hearing loss also supports your cognitive health which has big ramifications for your health as a whole.

Earning Power

Did you know that untreated hearing loss can put a dent in your professional life? For many people, hearing loss presents challenges at work, from keeping up with meetings and projects to connecting with coworkers. The challenges even extend into earning power. 

In a study that compared income to degree of untreated hearing loss, those with untreated hearing issues earned notably less on average than their peers without hearing loss. The greater the degree of hearing loss, the wider the income gap became.

There’s no need to be discouraged however! Using hearing aids can help you recover some of that lost earning power by making it easier to keep up on the job. Better speech comprehension, better understanding, faster response and better job performance, all of which can contribute to better pay.

Social Pleasure

No doubt everyone’s social calendar has taken a bit of a hit over the past year, but many people don’t realize how much untreated hearing loss can constrict their social behavior. Hearing loss that is left without treatment makes it harder for us to engage and connect with our favorite social activities. It can be subtle, such as avoiding parties and restaurants because it is too difficult to enjoy conversation and company amidst noise. What starts as small decisions can develop into a larger pattern of social withdrawal.

Using hearing aids has the potential to make social spaces easier to navigate, alleviating anxiety and frustration. Hearing aids can help you reclaim social activities that became too daunting when hearing loss was a factor. 

Quality of Life

It can be hard to pin down what “quality of life” means exactly, but on at least three large metrics, untreated hearing loss diminishes our experience of the world. Hearing loss is linked to significantly elevated risks for depression, anxiety and social isolation. 

Depression suppresses our enthusiasm for life and can develop from the feeling alienated or misunderstood because of the communication challenges that untreated hearing loss brings. Anxiety is marked by elevated stress and tension – it can be brought on by trying to navigate unfamiliar situations and spaces while also dealing with hearing issues. Isolation indicates a lack of social contact and in many cases reduced mobility. Social withdrawal that is motivated by hearing loss can be exacerbated to a point of social isolation.

Using hearing aids can help manage hearing loss in a way that can lower your risk and improve your life. When hearing aids work to make it easier to hear your friends and loved ones, as well as cope with noisy and confusing settings it helps solve many of the issues that can contribute to a lowered quality of life.

Cognitive Strengthening

Hearing loss isn’t good for our cognitive performance either. When we have to compensate for hearing loss, the brain works overtime to fill in the gaps, pulling focus away from other cognitive tasks. When the brain devotes most of its resources to hearing, even fundamental cognitive skills like balance can be compromised, resulting in more falling accidents.

Frighteningly, this persistent cognitive strain seems to be the essence of an increased risk of dementia for those with untreated hearing loss. There is good news however: hearing aids can help. Hearing aids make sound and speech more readily understandable, reducing the cognitive resources we need to hear. Hearing aids consistently improve cognitive performance when they are used regularly.

If you’ve experienced changes in your hearing, contact us today! We provide comprehensive hearing health services and we look forward to helping you hear at your best.