Hearing is vital to our quality of life. Hearing issues can affect so many facets of our lives, from employment to interpersonal relationships. People with hearing issues often end up avoiding or withdrawing from social situations because of the difficulty it can cause. And the more they withdraw, the less likely it is they will return to those social situations in the future.
But not all hearing loss is permanent. Some of it may be treatable -- wax build-up, fluid, and other causes can be corrected, and the sooner the better. If you find yourself avoiding events or activities you enjoy, maybe it's time to start taking your hearing seriously.
Testing and Prevention
One of the best ways to take your hearing seriously is to take steps to prevent hearing loss in the first place. Prevention amounts to taking these simple steps:
- If exposed to loud noises (at work or anywhere else), protect your ears properly.
- Turn down the volume of your music or TV to prevent the acceleration of hearing loss.
If you have a loved one whom you suspect may be suffering from hearing issues, encourage them to see an audiologist and have their hearing checked. This is especially important if it's never been done, or if it's been a long time since their hearing was last checked. There is no general "rule of thumb" for how often you should get a diagnostic hearing test -- but if you are over 50 and have never had one, or if you have a family history of hearing issues, it's a good idea to make an appointment.
Visiting an audiologist or ENT practice is important because while some primary care doctors may do a simple screening, many may not even do that much. An audiologist or ENT will do a full diagnostic test. If there is hearing loss, we can tell you what part of the ear is affected and help you develop a plan for treating or remedying the condition. If the results of your test are normal, we don't generally set a specific time for a return visit.
Taking Notice of Hearing Loss
Not all the signs of hearing loss are obvious... but a few are. If you want to take your hearing seriously in 2018, keep an eye out for these signs, either in yourself or in others.
- Feeling like people are "mumbling," or being unable to understand what someone is saying.
- Constantly having to turn up the volume of the television or radio.
- Ringing or buzzing in the ears could indicate hearing loss (but may not always).
- Having a harder time hearing sounds from another room.
- Experiencing trouble understanding speech in a noisy place like a restaurant or public place.
- Fatigue or tiredness from the constant strain of trying to hear people during social events.
If you, or someone you love, is experiencing symptoms like these, it may be time to consider making an appointment with an audiologist or ENT. But what if they resist or don't want to make that appointment?
Many patients who suffer from hearing loss experience denial or resistance to the idea. No one wants to accept the idea that they're losing their hearing. If you spend a lot of time with someone experiencing hearing issues, be kind and empathetic. Don't negatively point out the problems. Instead, point to the quality of life they'd like to experience and encourage a hearing test as a step toward regaining that quality of life. Help alleviate the negative stigma that associates hearing aids with age -- it's an outmoded stereotype that isn't always accurate.
The average span of time between when someone suspects hearing loss and when they get help is seven years. That's a long time to wait and could lead to worsening of very treatable symptoms. If someone close to you has been dealing with the symptoms of hearing loss, don't wait.