Signs of Hearing Loss & How to Test Your Symptoms
Hearing loss is a very common problem, although many people suffer without getting the help they need. It can be hard to assess yourself for hearing loss, you may not feel any different. But those around you may be getting cross or frustrated that you don’t seem to be paying attention to them, or if you are always asking them to repeat themselves.
If it feels like the rest of the world has started to mumble or you are having trouble following conversations then there may be a problem. Here are some other signs that you might need help with your hearing.
Do you have the volume on your television or radio too loud? It can be very difficult to tell when it sounds fine to you. Other people who live with you may comment on the volume or continuously ask you to turn it down. Or if you are visiting others they may never seem to have the volume loud enough. One way to assess whether you are having problems hearing the television is to ask a family member or friend to set the volume at a good ‘loud enough’ level for them and see if you can hear it easily and follow what is going on.
Struggling to hear someone speak with background noise is common for people with hearing loss. This can include the television or washing machine in the background or other people talking nearby. You may find it harder to hear other people when you are in a large room or in an open space. This is because the acoustics are different, in smaller spaces, sound bounces back to you making it easier to hear.
Do people complain that they have to call you a few times before getting your attention? Or have you been accused of ignoring a friend who called to you across the street? If you cannot hear someone unless you know they are talking to you, this is a sign that you are having to concentrate in order to hear. You may find it harder to understand what people are saying when you are tired and cannot concentrate, this can give the impression to others that you have ‘selective hearing’ and it changes throughout the day.
If you find it hard to understand what someone is saying if they turn their face away from you or if they cover their mouth whilst talking, you may have begun to rely on lip reading without realising. Ask a friend to cover their mouth halfway through a sentence, can you still understand what they said?
You may be able to hear someone speaking but can not make out all the words. Or you may find some people easier to understand than others. This is because hearing loss doesn’t always mean that everything is quieter. You can lose the ability to hear different sound frequencies. Losing the higher frequency sounds is the most common, so you may struggle to understand children or women talking but men are easier to hear. Your hearing may be quite sensitive, so whilst you need the television on loud to follow dialogue, that action scene with explosions and dramatic music can feel too loud, even uncomfortable.
Trying to follow a conversation where more than one person is speaking at once can be tiring and frustrating. Someone may change the subject without you realising making you confused. If you misunderstand what people say and then say the wrong thing you may feel embarrassed or worry that people will think you are silly. This can make social situations very stressful and you may start to try to avoid them altogether.
Another symptom of hearing loss is having a preferred ear when using the telephone. If you are right handed you may use the right ear automatically so try swapping sides during a phone call to see if you can hear with one ear better than the other. Let the caller know what you are doing and ask them to speak continuously while you test your hearing.
Along with muffled hearing you may also have some other symptoms. Any sensation of pain in the ear or any discharge can be signs of an ear infection, which can cause mild to severe hearing loss. You should speak to your doctor who may prescribe antibiotics or refer you to a specialist.
Tinnitus is another common symptom of hearing loss. Usually described as ‘ringing in the ears’ it can also be a buzzing or rushing noise which, in severe cases can drown out conversation. Tinnitus can be caused by exposure to loud noises or music, a build up of earwax or a middle ear infection, but in many cases the cause is not known. The use of hearing aids can ease the symptoms of tinnitus by raising the volume of external noises and helping your mind to focus on something else.
If you have an inner ear problem you may experience vertigo or dizziness. This may also be associated with a feeling of being light headed or nausea. If you lose your balance easily or if the floor sometimes feels like it moves when you are walking you should get your ears checked by a specialist. There are a few things which can cause this such as flu or an ear infection. If you suffer from both vertigo and tinnitus