A Penny For Your Thoughts and A Test For Your Hearing

Whether it’s because of noise-induced hearing loss, age-related hearing loss, the side-effect of a issue like tinnitus or a symptom of harmful ototoxic medication, progressive hearing loss is a tricky thing to address.

Becoming aware is half the battle. Unless you’re diligent with periodic hearing tests, how would you truly be able to tell if your hearing was degenerating? And how does one determine the rapidity of the onset of hearing loss?

These are all excellent questions — so we turn to the hear.com hearing experts who can provide answers. If you face any of these six issues, you may want to consider a device to enhance your hearing without having to strain.

Keep in mind that hearing loss is sometimes temporary so these experiences should be over a marked period of time. Answering yes to some of these questions after a concert, for example, is not the best test of one’s hearing.

1. Have you been increasing the volume on any of your devices in the last year?

There’s either one of two things going on: either your device is faulty and is progressively deteriorating — or you are. While you may not be able to establish a comparison between your hearing now and your hearing a few months ago in any meaningful manner, your outward interaction with devices should give you the information you need.

So, in this case, if you find yourself increasing the volume on the television or if your headphones suddenly don’t seem adequate enough, err on the side of caution. As they say, “it’s not you, it’s me” — and, in this case, it may not be your device but your hearing that requires an upgrade.

2. Do people around you seem to mumble more and more?

There are certain situations and moments in which muttering under one’s breath, whispering or mumbling is expected. If someone does not want to confront you, for example, but wants to express their frustration, or two people are trying to have a secret conversation, mumbling is inevitable.

Use the rest of your senses to gauge — is this a situation in which you ought to be able to listen in…but can’t?

Since hearing loss is progressive, your ability to make out what others are saying might decrease over time. Sometimes, the other senses will step in and your brain will supplement viewing someone’s lips moving in speech for a sense of “hearing.” So, it may seem to you that you can still hear them.

Don’t be fooled. The caveat here is that you can hear them but you may not be able to entirely understand them.

3. Do background noises seem louder and speech quieter?

Those with deafness, which is a type of hearing loss, may commonly experience this bizarre coincidence. It’s easier to hear background noises as these are amplified and end up masking or dimming the individual’s words who may be speaking right in front of you.

In this case, it’s the inner part of the ear that has been affected — specifically, those tiny cells that transmit sound to the brain, converting them into electric signals for interpretation. It could also be due to damage to the nerve fibers.

Like a camera lens that has lost the ability to focus, an amplification of background noise alongside a failure of close-range hearing should set off alarm bells that hearing loss is a possibility.

4. Are you using the phone’s speakers just to hear conversation better?

Not all hearing loss is created equal. The inner ear cells, after all, while connected to the ears, mouth, throat and vestibular system, don’t necessarily interact with each other.

This means that there could be varying levels of hearing in both ears. How do you know if one ear is affected more than the other?

Once again, it’s important to observe your behavior as a tell-tale indicator. You may find yourself switching back and forth between ears as the hearing in one is clearer than the other. At this point, the difference might be so annoying that you switch to speaker mode in order to feel as though your hearing is “leveled” out.

If this happens frequently, a hearing aid may be the solution.

5. Do you often ask people around you to repeat themselves?

Yes, repetition is the backbone of habit. So, if you’re repeatedly asking others to repeat themselves, you may not notice — but they certainly will, especially if they interact with you on a regular basis.

Repeating one’s words gives the ears a chance to perceive sound vibration once again. It also allows the other senses to kick in and give the ears doing the hearing a “boost”, if you will.

So, watch for this frequent request from yourself. It may be the first (or first of a few) signal of hearing loss.

6. Do people around you tell you that you should consider a hearing aid?

These behaviors, when coupled together, may still be missed by you — either because you’re not on the lookout for hearing loss or because they’ve gone “undetected” for so long, your brain has just established it as the “new normal.”

But while your perception is highly adaptable, others may not be so prone to flexibility. If there’s someone else who is observing these changes together and suggests a hearing aid as a solution, don’t be offended.

It may be the wakeup call you’ve been missing all along.

Your ears and the degree to which you can hear the world around you affect the quality of life you experience. It’s hard to truly enjoy art, or feel social and emotionally engaged with friends, family and current events, or even contribute to your own life in a meaningful manner without this essential sensory faculty.

If you’ve been experiencing a persistent issue in response to any of these questions, the first step is to head to a specialist for a hearing check-up as soon as possible.

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