Since nearly 50% of all Americans over the age of 65 have some level of hearing loss, it’s likely that you or many of those around you will be affected. Hearing loss in older people can be the product of years of exposure to loud noise, or it could result simply from changes to your body as you age.
Because the onset of hearing loss is, often very gradual, it’s common for those affected to be unaware of the changes. As well as tangible signs, there’s often a mental resistance to aging, so you may naturally deny that your hearing is in decline. Few people welcome signs of aging that result from deterioration.
Typically, you’ll find out about hearing loss from friends and family, those around you who may notice the decline before you. There are some specific signs and symptoms that accompany age-related loss. Here are five of the most common signs your hearing may be in decline.
If you’ve ever thought that you could hear just fine, but things aren’t clear or understandable, you may be experiencing hearing loss. In most cases, hearing loss isn’t like turning down the volume on your television. Not all frequencies are affected identically.
Typically, high-pitched sounds are the first to go. When these frequencies are in the speech definition range, you may have trouble deciphering the words you hear.
Approximately 80% of the consonant sounds that define speech are carried in the higher pitch sounds. When that range of frequencies declines, you lose capability to perceive the consonant sounds that shape the more powerful vowel sounds into words. For example, it becomes harder to detect the difference between “d” and “t” or “s” and “f”. If everyone around you seems to be mumbling, it might not be them.
The ability to focus on and pinpoint these speech definition frequencies lets you follow a conversation in crowds and other noisy situations. When you lose some high frequency hearing, that focus becomes more difficult to maintain.
Once again, you may hear sounds, but not enough to discern what’s being said. One-on-one in quiet rooms, you may have no difficulty at all, but a noisy restaurant or busy street may make conversation difficult.
Sometimes it may not be identifiable that hearing loss is the cause, but if you’re finding that certain activities aren’t as pleasurable as they once were, it could be your hearing. Many theaters rely on a careful balance of acoustics to help project actors’ voices, so slight loss of speech definition frequencies may be exaggerated in such a setting. You may lose your enthusiasm for listening to live music, watching movies in cinemas, or checking out comedians when your hearing starts to decline.
You may find yourself exhausted after a social event, particularly if it’s in a noisy venue. The mental effort of compensating for hearing loss is a remarkable ability, but it takes lots of extra energy and focus, and you may feel drained beyond your expectations.
You may first become aware of hearing difficulties when using telephones. It may seem as though your smartphone’s volume has lost capability, or you may struggle to understand certain voices during calls. While it’s possible it’s a technical issue, if you’re over 50, it may be a sign of age-related loss.
Other symptoms may occur, such as ringing in your ears, but these vary widely between patients. If you suspect your hearing may be fading, contact Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates today to schedule an appointment.