If you have found yourself recently struggling to hear the people in your life, there is a chance that it could be related to a hearing issue. With nearly 1 in 5 people in the US dealing with a hearing issue, it’s incredibly reasonable to keep track of your hearing health by scheduling annual exams. For nearly a century, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) celebrated the month of May as Better Hearing and Speech Month (BSHM) as a way to raise awareness and to advocate for the importance of treatment. This year’s theme “Building Connections” suggests that this May is a great time to take inventory of the connections in your life, to see if they could be improved by treating your hearing loss.
Hearing with Your Brain
While hearing loss occurs in the ears, actual comprehension occurs in the brain. Most cases of hearing loss are sensorineural, meaning that the tiny hair-like cells of the inner ear become damaged and cannot send certain tones or pitches to the brain. This usually occurs slow enough over time that many don’t even realize they have an issue with their hearing. However, just because you don’t realize you have a problem with your hearing doesn’t mean it is not affecting you.
The Negative Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss
First and foremost, the relationships and social connections in your life are affected when you live with untreated or undiagnosed hearing loss. Having to ask people to repeat themselves or misunderstanding all together is okay every now and then but when this becomes constant, it can build resentment. In a work environment, your co-workers may come to rely on you less and misunderstanding starts to cause financial deficits and safety concerns. This is why on average people with untreated hearing loss earn less than co-workers with normal or treated hearing.
This strain on relationships affects your self-esteem, causing depression, anxiety and sleep issues. It can also be incredibly exhausting to socialize with hearing loss as your brain is forced to work overtime to fill in the gaps. This is why untreated hearing loss can cause people to self-isolate, stay less active and suffer cognitive decline. These are only some of the communication issues which progress if hearing loss is not identified and dealt with. Other more severe issues include a higher risk of falls and accidents as well as a greater likeliness of developing dementia.
Detecting Hearing Loss Early
The sooner you identify a hearing loss the sooner you can start to deal with the emotional and physical issues which may progress due to the condition. However, it can sometimes be difficult to diagnose the condition for yourself. Knowing the early warning signs can help identify the issue before it gets more serious. The most common sign is mishearing or needing to ask people to repeat themselves more often than not. It is often certain consonants that are affected first as hearing diminishes. The most common consonants to be lost at first are S, F, Th, Sh, V, K, and P. This removes just certain parts of words and can quickly cause confusion, listening fatigue, anxiety and the desire to avoid social situations altogether. Other common signs of hearing loss include:
- You struggle to single out a conversation in a crowded or noisy place.
- People complain you listen to the TV or stereo too loud even though it sounds reasonable to you.
- Other people’s speech sounds muffled to you.
- You struggle to hear people over the telephone.
- There is a ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
If you suspect that you are dealing with any of these issues it is important to have your hearing tested immediately. Even if these issues are not currently stressing you out, the idea is to practice harm reduction. There is a big chance that further down the road these issues will be much more extreme; the symptoms are irreversible or much harder to undo once they have progressed. The most common treatment for hearing loss are hearing aids. These tiny digital devices fit behind the ear and amplify the specific tones and pitches you struggle with.
On average, once people start to suspect that they have a hearing issue, it takes most seven to ten years to treat the condition. This is why Better Hearing and Speech Month is so important. This May, take the leap and deal with your hearing loss before it truly affects your quality of life. Schedule a hearing test now!