By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
Losing your hearing can be a scary experience. The unknown or panic of decreasing hearing ability can send many people into depression or nervousness and even cause them to withdraw from important social interactions.
Hearing loss can be so gradual that some people don’t notice the effects until it is too late.
There are many things about hearing and hearing loss that people don’t know and hearing specialists are available to help people navigate this information which can reduce many of their fears and concerns.
“The main effect of hearing loss is a person’s inability to participate in many social situations,” said Douglas Brown, audiologist at dB Audiology Associates, PC in Syracuse. “They have greater difficulty understanding words in noisy situations whether you are in a restaurant, party or any large group setting. People who are experiencing hearing loss are not enjoying their activities as much as they could be.”
Brown, a New York state licensed audiologist who has been providing services in Central New York since 1973, discusses five pieces of information about hearing loss.
1. Over time people will experience hearing loss
Our lives are very noisy as a whole let alone if you work in a factory or in construction. It doesn’t have to be incredibly loud for damage to happen to your ears; even lower level noise for extended exposure times can cause permanent issues with our hearing. Many people use power tools and participate in recreational activities that produce harmful sound levels, such as attending loud sporting events, music concerts. When these activities are repeated over time, the risk of hearing loss increases.
“People are losing their hearing faster than they should because many of our recreational activities are noisy,” said Brown. “It could be powerboats, the music we listen to, lawn mowers, motorcycles and other loud sounds in our lives. We are seeing an increase in younger people who are experiencing hearing loss. We advise people to either limit their exposure to these loud sounds or wear protective ear plugs.”
2. Hearing loss can strain a relationship
Some situations where an individual won’t be able to hear others can produce irritation for the speaker and listener.
“When you have to ask someone to repeat something several times, it can be a frustrating issue for all involved,” said Brown. “Nobody wants to repeat themselves or have to ask to have anything repeated. It prevents people from feeling like they are truly engaged and connected to any activity because they are only hearing bits and pieces. This could cause them not to want to interact with others and isolate themselves.”
3. There are many different types of hearing loss.
The job of an audiologist is to determine the appropriate treatments for hearing loss once you receive an official diagnosis. There are various causes of hearing loss from natural to genetic to allergies.
“Not every condition can be easily treated or resolved. Some occur because of genetic disorders and can be corrected with surgery, other times the problem is based on blood flow issues in the inner ear or you can have infections or tumors in the ear,” added Brown.
4. Hearing aids are advance
In the 21st century, there have been significant advances in hearing aids. Manufacturers have made improvements by developing hearing aids that are more effective for various types of hearing loss. That includes those specifically made for high frequency hearing loss, along with better feedback, noise reduction, rechargeable batteries, and connectivity to Bluetooth technology. Digital hearing aids, with the aid of computer programming by the audiologist and a computer processing chip in the device help convert incoming sound so that it can be amplified to an individual’s specific needs. They also analyze the listening environment every couple milliseconds to determine if noise reduction assistance is needed. They are quite complex.
“People are wearing computers for hearing aids,” said Brown. ”They have become more sophisticated. They do an incredible job at keeping the background noise to a minimum while enhancing speech volumes. They really are adjustable to each person’s desire.”
5. Pay attention to symptoms
There are those who have the most common type of high frequency hearing loss and they are able to hear deep loud voices, but struggle to hear birds tweeting and consonant sounds like “s” “f” and “th.” These high frequency losses make it so you can hear the speaker talking but can’t always make out what is being said because of an inability to hear certain speech sounds.
When someone first begins to experience decreased hearing, certain symptoms come to the forefront. That includes muffling of speech and other sounds, difficulty understanding words especially when in in background noise and crowds, trouble hearing consonants, and frequently asking others to speak slower, clearer or louder.
“By the time most people come to see an audiologist they have been dealing with the problem anywhere from seven to 10 years.” said Brown. “Hearing loss is gradual and most people don’t notice it right away. But pay attention to some of the symptoms and get your hearing check just to make sure.”