If you woke up tomorrow morning without your normal ability to hear, it wouldn’t take you very long to notice. The sudden loss of one of your senses would be jarring and apparent; you would know something was wrong and that you should reach out for help. Fortunately, hearing loss tends to develop much, much more slowly than this—typically, hearing loss occurs with age, as the tiny hairs in our inner ears bend and break over time, gradually decreasing our ability to hear the world around us.
In other words, you’ll more than likely wake up tomorrow morning with no noticeable change in your ability to hear. However, the fact that hearing loss tends to develop slowly also means that we’re less likely to notice when our hearing is failing us. Because of this, it’s important to know how to recognize hearing loss in your loved ones, especially your older loved ones, as they may not have noticed it themselves.
Know the Symptoms
There are many symptoms a person with hearing loss may experience, like:
- A feeling that they can hear but not understand
- Difficulty discerning where sounds are coming from
- Difficulty hearing or understanding conversations over the phone
- Difficulty hearing or understanding conversations in loud environments
On top of these, someone with hearing loss may experience exhaustion after social events from something called “listening fatigue.” Listening fatigue occurs when a person has to use more brainpower to listen, follow, and understand a conversation. Even people with perfect hearing may experience listening fatigue from time to time, though it is much more common in people with hearing loss.
People with hearing loss may also experience tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus is most simply defined as a ringing noise or other sound that only the sufferer can hear. The most common tinnitus sound is a high-pitched ringing and may be something you’ve experienced before. Tinnitus most often occurs when the tiny hairs in your ears, after bending and breaking, send random signals to your brain that it understands as these sounds. Since both tinnitus and hearing loss are caused by damage to the tiny hairs in the inner ear, it is common that they are experienced together.
Next time you’re with your older loved ones in person or simply talking with them over the phone, make sure to listen for any complaints of these symptoms, as they could point to hearing loss. That said, while it’s important to understand what symptoms your loved one may be experiencing, it can be much easier to spot signs of hearing loss that affect you more than your loved one.
Look for These Signs
Does your loved one listen to the TV or radio at a louder volume than you think is comfortable or reasonable? This could be an indicator that they have hearing loss, and more specifically, the kind of indicator that will be more obvious to you than to them. These indicators are easier for others to spot, and are worth watching out for next time you’re together.
This kind of indicator will most often come up during conversations. For instance, your loved one may ask you or others to repeat themselves frequently, or you may notice that they tend to lean in with one ear, their “good ear,” when someone is talking to them. They may also respond inappropriately to questions or jokes, like answering too soon, giving the wrong answer, or laughing too soon or too late. This might indicate that they are relying more heavily on social cues than on what they are actually hearing.
Check-In With Them
If your loved one has complained of any symptoms of hearing loss, or if you have noticed any of the above indicators, it’s time to sit down and have a conversation about their hearing. These conversations aren’t always the easiest, since age-related hearing loss can come with embarrassment or stigma, but your loved one needs to know that help is available. After all, with the help of professionals, hearing loss can be treated, and many of their symptoms can be mitigated.
It’s also important to know that hearing loss can cause those affected to isolate themselves, in turn leading to issues with loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Because hearing loss affects a person’s ability to communicate, a person losing their hearing may feel like a burden in conversation or may feel disconnected from those around them. These feelings can cause a person to stay away from social situations, worsening the problem and causing mental health issues. If your loved one has experienced feelings like these, as well as visiting an audiologist, it may also be time to visit a therapist.
Make a Trip to Francis Audiology
If your loved one is experiencing trouble with their hearing, the hearing specialists near you at are here to help. Our audiologists offer hearing loss tests, or , which allow them to determine the type and severity of hearing loss your loved one is experiencing. From there, our hearing specialists can help fit them for and match them to a . Hearing aids can relieve hearing loss symptoms, easing communication and helping those with hearing loss reconnect to their family, friends, and the rest of the world around them