We often take our hearing for granted, but our sense of hearing is actually the quickest sense of all! Our brain takes only around 0.05 seconds to process any type of sound, whereas it takes up to 0.25 seconds to process any visual image. This makes our hearing the swiftest sense we possess, which also makes it prone to damage.
With age, our hearing tends to decline as the delicate hair follicles within our inner ear deteriorate. These cells do not regenerate, thus leading to hearing loss over time. Since hearing loss is mostly invisible, unlike a cataract which causes blurry vision, hearing loss can be harder to detect. This is why most people wait anywhere between 6-10 years before they actually seek help for their hearing loss!
Hearing loss may be subtle at first, but it does have some telltale indications. The most common symptom of hearing loss that most people are aware of, is asking others to repeat what they said. Speech sounds become harder to process with hearing loss, which is why those with hearing loss have trouble understanding what is being said during conversations. Loss of hearing can cause muffled sounds, which may make it seem as though everyone around them is mumbling.
Another common symptom of hearing loss is increasing the volume on electronic devices to an uncomfortably loud volume. You may feel the urge to crank up the volume on the radio or the television to a point where other members of your family begin to complain that it’s too loud. This may indicate that you might have a hearing problem.
For some people with hearing loss is only one ear, they may have trouble detecting the source of the sound and which direction a sound is originating from. They may feel disoriented as a result. For example, a person with hearing loss may look to their left in response to a sound that is actually originating from behind them. This can make it difficult to operate machinery and vehicles, and makes driving quite challenging.
People with hearing loss tend to have excessive trouble hearing conversations at places that have background music, such as restaurants or bars. If you find that you alone seem to be having an unusual amount of difficulty hearing people at a restaurant, you may have hearing loss. Hearing loss tends to blend speech sounds and background sounds together, which is what causes this problem, thus it may be time to get your hearing tested.
A lesser known sign of hearing loss is social isolation. A person who constantly struggles to hear everyday sounds may become withdrawn and reluctant to interact socially with others. This causes a vicious cycle of isolating oneself to avoid embarrassment of being unable to hear. This can lead to an increase in stress, depression, and even dementia. Furthermore, personal relationships may become strained as a result and work efficiency may also decrease, resulting in a significant loss of income.
If you feel any you or someone you love is showing one or many of the symptoms explored above, talk to an audiologist about getting a hearing test. Early detection of hearing loss can help prevent any further hearing damage and help bring your life back on track.
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