Hearing loss is a progressive condition, meaning it develops gradually over time. In fact, it can develop so slowly that many people aren’t even aware they have it until it’s progressed beyond a stage that is easily treatable. Hearing loss is linked to a number of health conditions including depression, anxiety and even dementia. For these reasons, it’s important to get tested for hearing loss at the earliest possible stage. Below are some of the early signs of hearing loss.
Trouble Hearing Children’s Voices
Most cases of hearing loss caused by aging or noise exposure are the result of damage to the stereocilia of the inner ear, which are tiny hair cells that convert soundwaves into electrical energy that is interpreted by the brain as sound. Once damaged, stereocilia do not regenerate.
Typically, it is higher-frequency sounds that are the first to go, making it harder to understand the high-pitch voices of children and women. You also may stop noticing sounds like the microwave timer or crickets chirping.
Difficulty Following Conversation in Noisy Environments
People with hearing loss typically have difficulty following conversations in noisy environments like restaurants. Background noise is generally low-pitch, while certain speech sounds like “f” and “s” are high-pitch. Therefore, if you having hearing loss, the background noise will be easier to hear than the speech sounds, and you won’t be able to understand what people are saying to you. Changes in the brain caused by the natural aging process also make it more difficult to tune out background noise.
Feeling Exhaustion after Social Events
When you can’t hear well and you strain to understand speech, your brain is filling in the gaps to make sense of what you can hear. This takes a lot of energy and focus, which is magnified when there is more than one speaker. All this mental effort may leave you feeling physically exhausted.
Watching Lips Instead of Making Eye Contact
Sometimes when hearing is poor, the brain relies on other senses like sight to compensate. You may not realize you’re relying on lip reading – so next time you’re having difficulty understanding someone, pay attention to whether you’re watching their mouth or looking them in the eyes.
For more information or to schedule a hearing test, call the experts at Mt. Hood ENT.