Do you have problems hearing clearly in a crowded room or at restaurants? Do family members complain that you have the TV or music turned up too loud? These are pretty common signs of hearing loss. But others might not be so obvious. It usually takes seven years on average from the time someone suspects that they might have hearing loss until they finally do something about it. In other words, until the hearing loss is severe enough that it can no longer be ignored, it is usually ignored. But it shouldn’t be that way. Do any of these situations seem familiar to you?
Difficulty with Speech
You (or a loved one) complain that everyone mumbles. If only they would “speak up” or “speak clearly” they could be heard. It’s not your hearing that is a problem; it is their speech. Maybe you can’t hear them when they are standing behind you; after all, you don’t have ears in the back of your head!
But a person with normal hearing should be able to hear someone speak from behind them. Another complaint may be, “I can hear you, but I can’t understand you.” Comprehension is not generally the problem, it is usually hearing loss. If you or a loved one complain that everyone is mumbling or not speaking clearly, or if they can’t hear when a person speaks behind them, it is time to investigate the possibility of hearing loss.
Difficulty with Background Noise
Do you avoid casual banter in groups or at parties? When dining at a restaurant, do you focus on the food and not the conversation? Are family reunions a bother because all those people are talking at once? These are all signs that you are experiencing hearing loss. When you start bluffing your way through party chit chat, don’t blame that martini in your hand; it could be a subtle symptom of hearing loss. It’s not that you don’t love your family, it is that as you lose your ability to hear you lose the ability to distinguish background noise from the signals you want to hear.
Unbalanced hearing is usually the culprit. With normal hearing, your ears are able to properly detect the direction and position of a sound. When hearing becomes unbalanced, you can’t properly discern the position or direction of a sound. Just as two properly aligned eyes are needed for the brain to “see” an object, two balanced ears are needed for the brain to process the signals needed to “hear” a sound.
Delayed Speech and Language Development
If a child does not reach appropriate speech and language milestones for their age and level of development, hearing loss can be a cause. Infants receive hearing screenings soon after birth. The earlier hearing loss is detected in a child, the greater the success in normal speech and language development. If a child passes an infant hearing screening test but has later language development issues, it is time to further investigate for hearing loss.
Learning disabilities may be misdiagnosed if hearing loss is present in a child. If the child cannot clearly hear a teacher give instructions, they will fail to perform tasks properly. Even mild hearing loss can affect school work. If your child is struggling in school, hearing screening as well as vision tests are in order to rule out problems with hearing or seeing.
Depression, Withdrawal, and Anxiety
Denial is common in the early stages of hearing loss. But as hearing loss progresses, the individual may start to avoid situations in which they cannot hear clearly. If they have problems hearing in crowds or restaurants, they may begin to decline invitations to social settings. It may be as subtle as eating alone at lunchtime instead of in the company of co-workers or a “headache” before a family gathering. They may become anxious about watching television or listening to music if a family squabble about the volume is a frequent result. The appearance of withdrawal due to depression may become the reality of depression.