Suspect a Hearing Loss ? - Look for these Five early signs
Hearing Loss is a very common problem at all age groups but tends to be more common in the extremes – childhood and old age.
HEARING LOSS IN YOUNG CHILDREN
Children are more prone to hearing loss between 2 and 6 years of age on account of frequent colds, adenoid &tonsil problems which lead to blockage of the Eustachian Tube and then a blocked sensation and hearing loss. Children manifest hearing loss in many ways- they become dull, lose interest in their surroundings, interact less with their peer group. Sometimes there is altered behaviour where they become more aggressive and demanding and may act fussy. Hearing loss in children, specially when prolonged has a significant overall impact on their literacy and numeracy skills, as well as alterations in behaviour and peer group interaction.
HEARING LOSS IN ADULTS
There is a gradual deterioration in our hearing after 50 years of age which becomes more prominent beyond the age of 60.
Since hearing loss is silent, painless, and slowly progressive, most of the elderly discover very late that they hear less. They are usually brought for a check-up by their spouse, children or other family member or friend.
The initial reaction of a hearing impaired adult is Denial –
- “There is nothing wrong with me.”
- “They mumble.”
- “I do not listen to the TV at a loud volume.”
- “Why do they all speak together – no one can understand then.”
We have realised over time that early detection and rehabilitation of untreated hearing loss is of the utmost importance. If we delay in the rehabilitation the nerve cells of the Acoustic Nerve begin to atrophy and subsequent efforts are bound to fail since the nerve is not transmitting sound.
FIVE EARLY SIGNS OF HEARING LOSS IN ADULTS
- Ask people to repeat themselves – ‘Aah?’ or “What did you say?’ are common features.
- Speak loudly – since hearing impaired persons cannot hear their own voice well they speak loudly in order to complete the feedback loop between talking and hearing their speech.
- Miss out on sounds which others around them can clearly hear. Another person sitting in the room will hear the bell or the phone ring, but the affected person will miss out on the sound.
- Keep the TV or Radio volume loud enough to disturb others. It is well known that hearing impaired persons do not come on their own- they are brought by a family member. One of the most common reasons for bringing to the ENT Specialist is that the TV is switched on so loud that it disturbs other family members.
- You miss out on conversation when in a group or in a crowded place. Since the signal to noise ratio is poor the affected person misses out on important cues in the conversation. This is very well attended to by special microphones that we use in some of our hearing aids.
There are other signs as well –
- You feel people are speaking too softly – ‘it is their fault, not mine – they mumble.’
- You struggle to localize the direction of the sound.
- Tinnitus- hearing a ringing sound in the ears.
- You avoid social gatherings since you feel you may not understand what others are saying.
IMPACT OF UNTREATED LONG TERM HEARING LOSS
- Social Isolation – fear of being misunderstood keeps hearing impaired adults at home, leading to social isolation.
- Depression- One of the important factors that keeps us happy is human engagement. Staying away from people we know leads to depression over a period of time.
- Memory impairment – as our human interactions reduce there are other consequences as well, including the following-
- Cognitive decline
- Frequent Falls – surprisingly, there is a strong association between hearing impairment and falls.
So the message for us is- if you suspect a hearing loss get it checked up and take the appropriate remedy as soon as possible. Do not delay since this has long term consequences.