Hearing loss is a journey many of us never anticipate embarking on. It sneaks up gradually, often so subtly that we don't notice the sounds we're missing. We might find ourselves saying, "People mumble nowadays," or "It's just a noisy environment," but these excuses can only go so far. The truth is, hearing loss can significantly impact our lives, and understanding its nuances is essential.
The loudness of sound is measured in decibels, or dB in short. Pitch is the degree of highness or lowness of a tone and is measured in frequency of sound vibrations per second, or Hertz (Hz). A deep voice has a low pitch and frequency, whereas a child's voice has a high pitch and frequency.
Early Stages of Hearing Loss
In the first stages of hearing loss, people tend to lose the high frequencies first. Therefore, one of the first symptoms of hearing loss is difficulty hearing or understanding high-pitched voices of women and children.
It is important to recognize that hearing someone and understanding them are two different things. High-frequency hearing loss distorts sound, which makes speech difficult to understand even if it can be heard.
People with hearing loss often have difficulty differentiating words that sound alike, especially words that contain S, F, SH, CH, H, TH, T, K or soft C sounds. These consonants are in a much higher frequency range than vowels and other consonants.
Warning Signs of Hearing Loss
Your family members and friends are likely to be the first to notice your difficulty in hearing long before you do. If you experience these warning signs repeatedly or in combination, they may indicate a hearing loss.
- You feel annoyed at other people because you can't hear or understand them.
- You feel embarrassed to meet new people.
- You feel nervous or stressed out trying to hear and understand what others are saying.
- You feel more irritable or depressed when participating in group discussions.
- You feel unhappy or unease when attending social gatherings that were once enjoyable.
- You are diagnosed with diabetes, heart condition or thyroid problems.
- You experience ringing in your ears.
- You have a family history of hearing loss.
- You have been exposed to very loud sounds over a long period.
- You take medications that may harm your hearing system (ototoxic drugs).
- You find telephone conversations increasingly difficult to follow.
- You have trouble understanding all the words in a conversation, especially with women's and children's voices.
- You have difficulty understanding what is being said in a seminar or lecture.
- You miss important information in business meetings.
- You often misunderstand what others are saying. You play the radio or TV too loudly.
- You ask others to repeat themselves.
- You experience difficulty understanding conversations in noisy places.
- You have trouble hearing if the person speaking is out of your range of vision.
- You read lips or more intently watch other people's faces when they speak with you.
- You think other people's speeches sound muffled or like they're mumbling.
If you recognize one or two symptoms of hearing loss, don't fret about it. It is common to have trouble hearing in some unconducive environment. However, if you identify yourself with more than two symptoms, there is a great chance that you will have some degree of hearing loss.
These increasing difficulties in hearing may produce conflict between you and your loved ones. Your family member may insist that you get help, but you deny your hearing problem. However, countless studies have shown that untreated hearing loss can have negative consequences, such as strained relationships with the people you love, higher risk of dementia, social isolation and depression.
If thoughts such as "People talked a lot clearer when I was younger.", or "If these people don't mumble, I could hear better." ever come across your mind, do yourself a favour, visit your nearest hearing center for a hearing check-up.
We promise you won't regret your decision. Your restored hearing would not only bring back your ability to communicate, but also your positive outlook of life.
Don't let your hearing hold back the life that you deserve to live.