According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1.5 billion people globally are currently living with hearing loss. By 2050, that number is estimated to exceed 2.5 billion.
The tiny hairs in your inner ear are responsible for receiving sound waves and transforming them into nerve signals, which your brain interprets as sound. There are many issues that can affect the health, quality, and quantity of these hairs, from loud concerts to chemicals to simple aging.
Thankfully, prompt action and treatment can help curb the effects and improve your quality of life. Today, we're sharing seven key signs of hearing loss, along with the next steps to take when you're ready to seek support.
1. Speech Begins to Sound Like Mumbling
Have you noticed that the people around you seem to be mumbling more than usual? If this is the case, it could be a sign of hearing problems on the horizon.
When your hearing first begins to fade, one of the first things you could lose is the ability to discern high-frequency sounds. In speech, the highest-frequency sounds are consonants, as well as digraphs such as "sh" and "ch".
You may not hear those as sharply, but you can hear vowel sounds. This can make it seem as though people aren't speaking clearly. It's one thing if it's an isolated incident, but if everyone around you appears to be mumbling, it may point to a bigger problem.
2. Phone Calls Are Difficult
No matter what kind of phone you're using, most devices come equipped with a button that allows you to turn the volume up or down. This includes both cell phones and landlines.
Do you find yourself pressing the volume button repeatedly, inching it higher and higher in the process? If you have it on full max (or close to it), this could be a sign that you're experiencing hearing issues.
Phone calls are especially tricky because not only can they distort speech sounds, but the sound is only going into one ear. In a typical, in-person conversation, you can use both of your ears to hear what the other person is saying. You may notice that it's harder to hear when holding the phone to one ear than the other, which could indicate that the ear in question has more significant hearing loss.
3. Background Noise Is Bothersome
It can be difficult for anyone to carry on a conversation in a crowded room, even those who don't have any complications with their hearing. However, when you have hearing loss, it becomes harder to naturally screen out certain types of low-pitched background noises, such as the hum of traffic.
You may also have difficulty screening out the competing sounds of human voices. If you're at a party, for instance, tuning out all of the other voices around you to focus on the person speaking to you can feel impossible. This lead to frustrating encounters, and even social isolation.
4. Loud Noises Surprise You
Have loud noises been startling you lately? This could be a sign that you're experiencing an issue called "recruitment" which commonly occurs in people with hearing loss.
Recruitment is a sign that the hair cells in your ear have started to diminish. When this happens, you won't usually lose them all at the same time. Instead, it typically occurs in phases.
If you hear a noise on the side with more healthy hair cells, it will trigger them to respond more forcefully than normal to compensate for the partial loss. This can cause even a mildly loud sound to seem jarring or even distorted.
5. Conversations Are Exhausting
As your hearing starts to fade, you may begin to find it physically and mentally exhausting to keep up with conversations. You have to strain to hear what the other person is saying, and the process can leave you feeling fatigued.
If you come home from a day with co-workers, friends, or family members and find that you have a headache or feel excessively tired, this could point to hearing loss. You may also find yourself getting distracted more easily as it becomes harder to maintain your attention and focus.
Solutions such as hearing aids can help you enjoy your everyday life, and all of the conversations within it. You deserve to make fruitful, meaningful connections without the added stress of not hearing clearly or correctly.
6. Your TV Is Turned Up Loud
When people visit your home, do they often ask you to turn down the television? Like your phone, your TV comes with volume control. One of the most common signs of hearing loss is the desire to turn those controls higher and higher.
You may not even realize you're maxing out your volume until someone else points it out. If you have to turn it down to hear what someone else is saying, this is a sign that it's higher than the normal range.
7. You're Misunderstanding Others
As mentioned, high-frequency hearing loss can cause you to inadvertently distort certain sounds of speech. You might find yourself misunderstanding someone during a conversation, and asking them to repeat themselves. Even jokes that you once found funny might leave you scratching your head, because you couldn't hear and understand the punch line.
These kinds of encounters can be embarrassing and frustrating, but they're nothing to be ashamed of. This particular type of hearing loss is known as sensorineural hearing loss. It's commonly caused by aging, as well as exposure to loud noises.
Recognize These Signs of Hearing Loss
As you read through this list, do these signs of hearing loss sound familiar to you? If so, you do not have to suffer in silence. At Beltone Hearing Care, we're dedicated to helping you maximize your quality of life.
We provide a range of different hearing screening services, hearing aid services, and hearing protection solutions designed to provide you with the answers and support you need.
If you have any questions about our products or services, feel free to contact us today. You can also take our quick, five-minute online hearing test to learn more!