Do you find yourself turning up the TV or radio volume more than usual? Do you sometimes not hear your phone or the doorbell? You may even have been out at a restaurant recently and found it stressful and difficult to know what people at your table were talking about.
These can be signs that you are experiencing hearing loss. While hearing loss is sometimes sudden, it is often gradual and you may not notice it at first, and often not until it is very pronounced. Sometimes it is someone else, like a close family member, who notices it first. However being aware of the early signs can help you identify the problem and know when to seek help.
Early warning signs of hearing loss include having to ask people to repeat what they have said, and having difficulty following conversations, especially when there is background noise, according to Mr Fergal Glynn, Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon at the Blackrock Clinic, Dublin.
Other signs of hearing loss include feelings of ear fullness or pressure, ear noises such as ringing or buzzing, dizziness, and turning up the TV and radio volume. At home, where it is quiet people often do not realise they are experiencing hearing loss, even though they have to turn up their TV and radio. It is when they are out and there is background noise and they have trouble hearing what people are saying or things sounds muffled that they realise something is wrong, he says.
“Needing to look at someone’s mouth when they are speaking in order to be able to understand them is quite an obvious sign of hearing loss,” Mr Glynn explains.
People often try to compensate for their hearing loss, like sitting very close to or directly face to face with people who are talking to them or avoiding certain social situations, often without realising why or what they are doing.
Noel Cullen, Hidden Hearing Senior Audiologist, said research shows that hearing problems in Ireland are on the increase.
“Today, there are almost half a million people in Ireland with some form of hearing loss. 20% of people aged 50 years and older experience a disabling hearing loss (225,000 people in Ireland), while 44% of people aged 70 years and over experience a disabling hearing loss 145,000 Irish adults). Based on
Current trends, we are expecting this number to rise dramatically in the coming years unless we do something about it,” she said. Thus knowing the early signs of hearing loss are essential.
Alf Smyth, Hidden Hearing Audiologist, says the evidence shows that from approximately 20 years of age, our hearing starts a gradual decline. This is completely normal and does not always lead to total loss of hearing.
It is therefore tempting to ignore the signs of hearing loss. Just turn up the volume on all electronic and media devices and ask people to speak up and you’ll be fine, right? Wrong.
“Hearing problems, if left untreated, can worsen over time and can also cause auditory deprivation, which means that sufferers can lose their ability to recognise certain sounds in addition to their hearing loss. Early intervention with hearing loss is critical to minimise auditory deprivation and prevent hearing problems becoming more complicated than they need to be, Smyth says.
“With a sudden loss of hearing if people are treated within the acute phase, within the first few days, the chances of recovery are higher than if the problem is left,” Mr Glynn notes.
So while it is easy to take our hearing for granted, everyone should make the effort to be aware of the signs of hearing loss and seek treatment as soon as possible if they experience any of them. It is also important to reach out to family members or friends you may suspect of experiencing hearing loss and ask them if they are aware of the signs and encourage them to seek help.
This year at Hearing Awareness Week, Hidden Hearing launched its ‘HEAR’ information campaign. The campaign asks people to ‘Know the Signs’ of hearing difficulty in their family members and friends and to encourage anyone with hearing difficulties to avail of a hearing test.
‘Know the Signs’ of Hearing Difficulties:
H- OME - Do you find it hard to hear the telephone, doorbell, radio or TV at home?
E- NGAGE – Do you find it hard to engage in conversation with others in crowds?
A – SK – Do you have to ask people to speak more clearly?
R – EPEAT – Do people often have to repeat themselves for you?
It is important to get your hearing tested if you have any concerns. Hidden Hearing provide free hearing consultation and expert advice for all patients. If you have any questions about hearing loss, contact Hidden Hearing on Freephone 1800 370 000 or Contact Us via email or contact form.