If you think you or someone you know might have a hearing loss, you are not alone. If you have suspected for a while but just haven’t got around to doing anything about it, that is not unusual. On average, it takes people seven years from the time they think they might have a hearing loss to the time they seek treatment.
How can I tell if I have a hearing loss?
If you answer yes to some of the following questions, you may have a hearing loss
- Often ask people to repeat what they say?
- Have trouble hearing in groups?
- Think others mumble?
- Fail to hear someone talking from behind you?
- Turn up the volume on the TV or car radio?
- Have difficulty on the phone?
- Have trouble hearing your alarm clock?
- Have difficulty hearing at the movies
- Dread going to noisy parties and restaurants?
Think about these situations
- Are you embarrassed to talk openly about not being able to hear?
- Are you cutting out activities that you used to love but have become painful because you cannot join in fully anymore?
- At work are you afraid to reveal your hearing loss in case it jeopardizes your job and your supervisor and coworkers may see you as less competent?
- Are you bluffing when out with friends in noisy restaurants?
- Are you feeling cut off from your young children because you cannot hear their high-pitched voices?
- Are family holidays a strain because so many people are talking at once?
These are common reactions and can lead to withdrawal from social interaction, anxiety, loss of self-esteem and even depression.
“I can hear but can’t understand.”
For most adults, the onset and progression of a hearing loss extends over some time. Often, people will blame their hearing problems on the nature of the other person’s speech. For example, someone might say: “If people wouldn’t mumble, I could hear! “Or, “People talked a lot clearer when I was younger.” One’s family and friends are likely to be the first to notice some difficulty hearing, long before the person does.
Typically at this stage, the individual will deny a problem. This is understandable, since there is usually great variability in how the person functions in various situations and with different people. In some situations and with some people, he or she may do pretty well. People will not be aware of what they don’t hear (like the sounds of birds, the beep of the microwave, and soft everyday sounds). They will be aware that they do not understand speech, as when they say, “I can hear but can’t understand,” especially the high-pitched voices of children. Family members frequently complain that the TV volume is set too high, leading to some family squabbles.
The person with hearing loss will notice difficulty in understanding when someone talks from another room. Probably, the major complaint of people with hearing loss is the difficulty they experience in comprehending speech in any kind of noisy place (restaurants, receptions, large family dinners, in the car, or on a plane). Group conversations are particularly difficult, especially when there is great deal of cross-talk. These increasing difficulties in hearing may produce conflict between the person with hearing loss and family members, with the family insisting on getting help and the person with hearing loss reluctant to recognize the reality. This stage may last for seven or more years before the hearing loss and the problems that go along with it are acknowledged and help is sought.
For children who are hard of hearing, the situation is different. Parents should be on the lookout for delayed or aberrant speech and language development, apparent inattention, and poor school work. Hearing screenings in classrooms are necessary, but not mandated in all states. Ask your pediatrician to do a hearing screening at the annual check-up.