Warning Signs of Hearing Loss
Our hearing health is just as important as the rest of our body; however hearing loss is a condition we often push to the side. In many cases, it happens so gradually, it goes unnoticed. If you are vigilant, you may be able to pick up signs before it begins to have an adverse effect on everyday life. Below are some early warning signs that you may be living with a hearing impairment.
Family members comment
This is an obvious one. Your family and loved-ones are usually the first people to notice that your hearing could be better. Communication is a two way street - hearing loss can have significant psychosocial effects on communication partners as well as the hearing impaired person (1).
Ringing in the ears (Tinnitus)
Tinnitus and hearing loss can go hand in hand. We often observe that the shape of a person's audiogram is closely related to the type and pitch of the tinnitus experienced. In most cases, the pitch of the tinnitus is matched to where regions of hearing loss is most prominent (2).
Not being sure where sounds are coming from
We hear best when our two ears are working together and balanced. Our brain uses timing and loudness cues to accurately identify where sounds are coming from. If we have hearing loss, particularly asymmetric hearing loss, these cues can be misinterpreted by the brain, and therefore give us a misleading perception of where sound is being generated (3).
Avoiding social places you once enjoyed in the past
Hearing loss has a profound impact on social behavior. Responsiveness and confidence can begin to decrease which leads to social withdrawal, isolation and, in a large number of cases, depression (4, 5). These adverse effects can be present even at mild levels of hearing loss.
Leaning in closer to people AND/OR difficulty listening to TV, but the evening news seems to be okay
It is true when people say we hear with our eyes as well as our ears. You will always have improved communication when you can see someone's face, whether it is on TV or in person (6). Our visual input significantly influences the way the brain perceives sounds and in some case can override our auditory input completely (7).
Long periods of socializing have become more tiring now
People who suffer from hearing loss generally have to work harder to follow running conversation. This is because the hearing centers of the brain are not being stimulated optimally and consequently other areas have to compensate for the deficiency (8). This decreases the cognitive reserve otherwise used for speech comprehension, memory and attention. When other areas of the brain are working harder than they normally would, it leads to increased listening effort, and over a period of time, fatigue (9).
If you notice one or more of these signs in yourself or in someone you are close to, book an appointment for a hearing test.
- Scarinci, N., et al. (2008). "The effect of hearing impairment in older people on the spouse." International Journal of Audiology 47(3): 141-151.
- König, O., et al. (2006). "Course of hearing loss and occurrence of tinnitus." Hearing Research 221(1): 59-64.
- Abel, S. M. and V. H. Hay (1996). "Sound localization the interaction of aging, hearing loss and hearing protection." Scandinavian Audiology 25(1): 3-12.
- Chou, K.-L. (2008). "Combined effect of vision and hearing impairment on depression in older adults: evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing." Journal of affective disorders 106(1): 191-196.
- Mulrow, C. D., et al. (1990). "Quality-of-life changes and hearing impairment: a randomized trial." Annals of Internal Medicine 113(3): 188-194.
- Neely, K. K. (1956). "Effect of visual factors on the intelligibility of speech." The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 28(6): 1275-1277.
- Green, K. P., et al. (1991). "Integrating speech information across talkers, gender, and sensory modality: Female faces and male voices in the McGurk effect." Perception & psychophysics 50(6): 524-536.
- Downs, D. W. (1982). "Effects of hearing aid use on speech discrimination and listening effort." Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders 47(2): 189-193.
- Sarampalis, A., et al. (2009). "Objective measures of listening effort: Effects of background noise and noise reduction." Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 52(5): 1230-1240.