What is hearing loss?
Hearing loss is fundamentally a communication problem as a result of a decrease in sensitivity to sounds that are normally heard.
Types of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can happen at any age. It can occur suddenly or decrease gradually over time.
There are 3 types of hearing loss:
- Mixed (a combination of the above)
The most common type of hearing problem is hearing loss associated with normal wear and tear of aging, also known as presbycusis.
This may come as a surprise but everyone’s hearing starts to deteriorate after the age of 25! In some people it happens much faster than in others.
Hearing loss can occur suddenly but as we age we lose acuity. However, this is not just down to age; another reason is Sociocusis (so-see-oh-KOO-sis).
Sociocusis is the result of the accumulated effects that living in modern society has on our hearing. Our world is filled with noise; electrical appliances in the kitchen, traffic, using the underground, concerts, festivals and listening to music through iPods at high volume.
Hobbies such as shooting can also cause hearing loss. Musicians and people working in noisy environments are particularly at risk of developing hearing loss.
Some people are born with a hearing loss which could be hereditary or due to other factors present either in-utero or complications at the time of birth.
Adults can have problems with their hearing from any age, but hearing loss does become more common as we get older. Hearing loss can occur gradually over time and those affected may not realise that their hearing has deteriorated significantly.
If you notice several of the following signs, you should consider taking a hearing test:
- Do you feel that people who speak to you are mumbling?
- Do family or friends complain that you have the TV too loud?
- Does your significant other complain that you do not hear what she/he says?
- Do family and friends say that they have to constantly repeat themselves?
- Do you struggle to follow conversation in noisy environments like restaurants, parties, family gatherings?
- Do you avoid social gatherings because it’s an effort to focus and engage in conversation?
- Do others have to shout at you to attract your attention, even if they are quite near to you?
- Do you have difficulty hearing someone speak behind you from behind or from another room?
- Do you find it difficult to follow lectures, plays at the theatre or talks at religious gatherings?
- Do you have problems hearing clearly on the telephone?
- Do you avoid using the telephone because it is requires too much effort to follow what’s being said?
- Are you not hearing the telephone ring or the sound of your doorbell?
- Do you have difficulty determining the direction of someone’s voice?
- Is it difficult for you to locate where sound is coming from in the environment?
Don’t be the last to know…
It is usually family and friends who notice a hearing loss first. They might say ‘you’re not listening to me’ or be annoyed that the TV is too loud. The problem is not the condition itself but the fact that you may not recognise it.
Hearing loss usually begins unnoticed. On average, people with hearing loss wait almost 10 years before they do something about it. Too few people make a timely decision to take active steps to recover their hearing and increase their quality of life.
One in seven people in the UK suffer from hearing loss to some degree, that’s over 7.5 million people, of which 50% are over the age of 60. Studies show that as people lose their hearing, they are more prone to depression; they withdraw socially and communicate less with family and friends. This comes as no surprise – after all, you can’t participate in conversation if you can’t hear what’s being said!
Hearing loss vs visual impairment
As with the eye, the ear’s performance is affected by ageing. However, bad vision gradually makes reading harder as the letters get smaller, but hearing loss is different. Hearing loss can make certain syllables and sounds harder to hear. For example, high-pitched consonants like f, s and t are easily drowned out by louder, low-pitched vowels like a, o and u.The result is, your brain receives an incomplete representation of your world of sound which in turn makes communication more effortful.
If you use hearing technology that is fast enough to support your brain with accurate information, you will find it easier to participate in social activities freeing up your capacity to remember more conversation with less mental effort, decreasing the risk of cognitive decline.Next page: living with hearing loss