More than 1 in 6 Australians have hearing loss. It affects 2 out of every 3 people over 60. And it can occur naturally with age or be caused by overexposure to loud noise.
Health scientists know that other issues might arise if we don’t take the necessary actions to treat hearing loss. Untreated hearing difficulties commonly lead to a decline in mental health and cognition, relationship issues, and reduced employment opportunities. And all this can happen even if your loss is mild and you think you can “get by” with it.
The sooner you treat hearing loss, the better.
Despite the evidence advocating early treatment for hearing loss, amazingly, of the 4 million people in Australia who would have better quality of life with hearing aids, most adults with mild hearing loss don’t do anything about it. That’s partly because there isn’t enough publicity surrounding the importance of early action, but it’s also partly because hearing difficulties can sneak up on us gradually. If we pay attention to our changing hearing as we get older, the signs are all there and shouldn’t go ignored.
Here are the top 5 signs that you might have hearing loss:
- You find it hard to hear a conversation in a crowded room or restaurant. The ear and the brain work together to understand conversation in difficult places. If hearing is not as good as it once was, this is often the first place it shows up.
- You feel that people are always mumbling. If this is happening more frequently than not, it’s not because young people have suddenly started to mumble; imperfect hearing makes speech sound muffled.
- Loved ones complain about the volume you set the TV or radio. This tell-tale sign means that other people will be starting to notice that your hearing is deteriorating. Pay attention if people start telling you that you’re mishearing things, even if they say so with a joking tone.
- You find it easier to understand men’s voices than women’s. That means your hearing is likely deteriorating in the upper registers. Speech is generated by the vibration of the vocal cords. The frequency at which they vibrate is known as the ‘fundamental frequency’. Men tend to speak with a fundamental voice frequency near Middle C, or 256 Hertz, and women speak with a fundamental frequency that’s around an octave higher.
- You often get noises or ringing in your ears. Tinnitus is usually a sign of hearing damage, often caused by too much exposure to loud sound.
If you can relate all too well to any of the above signs, I’d encourage you to have your hearing investigated.
What should you do if you think you have hearing loss?
My profit-for-purpose hearing company has provided a free hearing test that you can take for an accurate measurement of the parts of speech you’re missing.
But the first thing you should do is pay a visit to your GP who will look in your ears to double check that your problem isn’t caused by a build-up of ear wax. If ear wax isn’t the problem, head to an audiologist for a full hearing assessment. At your assessment, your audiologist should ask you questions and run the necessary tests to find out how well you can hear speech sounds, and how well you hear in noise.
Effective treatments are available for hearing loss!
If you’re found to have a hearing loss, your audiologist should explain the treatment options available to you. Hearing aids are the most common way to treat hearing loss, but sometimes medication or surgery is needed.
So, the main message you can take away is that if you’re experiencing any of the top 5 signs of hearing loss, or even if you simply feel that you’re not hearing as well as you should be, don’t delay. Have your hearing checked right away!