What can you do when you are the only one to realize you have hearing loss? It’s a common scenario among older people. They fight to stay involved in conversations but the people around them assume there are other reasons they seem distracted. Older folks can suffer from a number of issues that make them seem distant. It may be that hearing loss is not the first conclusion they draw.
Hearing loss is an invisible disability, too. In other words, there is nothing to point that hurts. You can’t show someone the problem. It’s hard to understand how hearing loss affects your life unless you experience it for yourself. So, what should a person who thinks they have hearing loss do to make themselves heard?
Get Others Involved
Put your friends and family to working solving your hearing mystery, explains the National Institute on Deafness and Other Hearing Disorders. Even if you think you have hearing loss, it might be difficult to be sure that’s what’s happening without some feedback from the people in your life. Ask them straight out if they think it’s a problem. Pose questions like:
- Have they noticed you asking them to repeat themselves often?
- Are you turning the TV up too loud?
- Are you misunderstanding what they tell you sometimes?
- It might be the idea of hearing loss just hasn’t occurred to them. Once you bring it up in conversation, they might start picking up on the clues.
Ask the Doctor for a Hearing Test
A physician that sees you one a year of a wellness check may not pick up on your hearing problems. Many conditions that lead to hearing loss don’t present with physical symptoms that a physician will see when examining your ears, either.
If you suspect hearing is causing you a problem, then it’s time to speak up. The doctor can ask questions to clarify your concern and even do same baseline tests in the office prior to sending you for a more comprehensive hearing test with an audiologist. None of that will happen, though, if you fail to make the doctor aware of your hearing loss.
Make Changes on Your Own
Once you have a real diagnosis and a professional hearing test, you have everything you need to improve your hearing health. For most people, hearing loss is a treatable condition. With the right tools at your disposal, your hearing loss will have less of an impact, so you struggle less. The audiologist and your doctor can look at your test results and help you make smart decisions designed to improve your life like getting hearing aids and other assistive listening devices.
Go slow picking out hearing aids to give yourself a chance to explore all the different features available and come up with the right mix for your needs. A certified hearing aid retailer will sit with you and go over the benefits of each brand and model. You will learn how different features work, too. Look for a dealer that offers a trial period, as well. This gives you the chance to test drive each feature, so you know if you need it or not.
Don’t Try to Do It Alone
Don’t leave the people in your life in the dark about hearing loss. That only hurts you. Make sure they understand your concerns by making them part of the solution. Start by taking a friend or family member with you to the doctor and when you go for your hearing test. Allow them to sit with you when you get the diagnosis and the hear more about the depth of your hearing loss. Make them part of the decision-making process as you pick out the different hearing aids you want to try.
You might have hearing loss, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with it alone. When you include your family in the process, you make them apart of that world, too. Now, you are not the only one who understands what hearing loss is like and how it affects your life. By asking them in, you help them see what they didn’t notice on their own.
Hearing loss changes things but so much harder when you struggle with it alone, so don’t. You are taking the step by helping your friends and family overcome it with you.
You made the first step to managing your hearing issues by getting a hearing test from a qualified audiologist, but now what? What kind of data can you expect to acquire with this test and what does it mean for your hearing future? These are reasonable questions because hearing tests are meant to go beyond the traditional an ear exam. The purpose of a hearing test is to gauge how well sound reaches the brain.
Hearing tests are performed by a specialist to provide a thorough evaluation of your hearing, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. That’s important information for both you and your ear doctor to have but what exactly can you expect to learn from the hearing test?
How Hearing Tests Work
That’s the first question you should ask the audiologist when you sit down for the test to really appreciate the importance of this data. A sound is really a vibration in the air that travels in waves. Measures are taken of these vibrations determine the specific frequency (pitch) and height or amplitude (volume).
Hearing loss, especially when it is part of aging, rarely means you just stop hearing everything all at once. Instead, most people hear little bits and pieces of sound based on these two factors: frequency and amplitude. When hearing starts to fade, it’s common to hear some voices better than others. This is because that voice falls into a range of frequency and amplitude that your ears can still hear.
Hearing tests introduce sounds at different levels to see what you can and can’t hear. In most cases, you are asked to sit in a sound proof booth with headphones on and acknowledge when you hear a sound. The audiologist gets a record of what frequency and amplitude you hear in each ear to measure your specific level of hearing loss.
A comprehensive hearing test measures:
- Pure tone audiometry – Tonal hearing
- Hearing in Noise – Hearing in both quiet and noisy environments
- Speech reception and word recognition
In some cases, the audiologist tests the actual structures of the ear, too. For instance, a tympanogram will measure how well the eardrum and middle ear works. An auditory brain stem response tests the brain’s reaction to sound. All this gives the specialist a well-rounded metric of your hearing ability and where it fails.
What You Should Understand After the Hearing Test
For very straightforward hearing tests, the audiologist makes a map of your hearing ability, called an audiogram, using frequency and aptitude as points to plot it. The purpose is to gauge each individual’s hearing loss and how best to accommodate it. The hearing specialist takes that audiogram and then uses a formula to create a single number from it that summarizes your hearing loss in a concise manner. Using this single measure, they determine your degree of hearing loss. For example:
- Under 25dB – No hearing loss
- Between 56 – 70 dB – Moderate to severe with difficulty understand some speech and with group conversations
- Over 91 dB is considered profound hearing loss
With this information in hand, you can make choices that will affect not only your hearing health but your quality of life, as well. A person with moderate to severe hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids, for instance. The data obtained via a hearing test also helps a certified hearing aid retailer create a strategy when fitting you for hearing aids. The technician can get a feel for what feature might best suit your needs like direction microphones and noise filtering.
Most people can benefit from a hearing test even if they are not experiencing hearing loss. The test serves as a baseline to measure changes to your hearing over the years.
I can’t be my hearing because…if that’s something you find yourself saying a lot these days than you already get how easy it is to deny hearing loss. The Hearing Loss Association of America explains that simply knowing that hearing loss exists is the biggest obstacle people face. It starts with admitting there’s a problem and then getting proactive about it. The first step is to see a doctor and get a professional hearing test. Consider some of the more common excuses people use to deny their hearing loss.
1. It Just Happens Too Slow
This is especially true hearing loss related to age. This form of hearing loss can early and get progressively worse over time. People don’t always notice it until little things start happening like a family member harping on them about the TV being too loud or they feel like they are always behind in the conversation. For some, the first real symptom that there is a hearing problem comes with the onset of tinnitus or ringing in the ears. By the time the ringing starts, though, the loss is already affecting your life.
2. They Pass the Hearing Loss Buck Most of the Time
It’s not you; it’s that outdated television set. Maybe it’s not you but the spouse who is always mumbling. Your first instinct may be to pass the buck because it just doesn’t occur to most people that they have a hearing problem. If your hearing has always been so good, why would you suddenly think it is failing? It probably seems much more likely that what you are trying to hear is at fault even though that is rarely the case.
3. A Doctor Didn’t Find Any Hearing Loss
During your last check-up, the doctor didn’t say anything to you about hearing loss, so it must not exist. The problem with that excuse is even the best doctor can miss a hearing problem unless he or she knows to look for it.
This form of age-related hearing loss generally affects the inner ear, so it’s not something that will pop up during your annual checkup. It may be the doctor notices you are struggling to hear, but people with this problem tend to compensate without even knowing it. It is easy for a doctor who sees you only occasionally or maybe for the first time ever to miss.
4. No One Complains About My Hearing
Well, maybe you just didn’t hear them. While most of the time the people in your life will recognize your hearing loss before you do, it is hardly a deciding factor. If they do notice something, they may think they’re being over critical or maybe they’re just mistaken.
In the end, this is still how most people figure out there is a problem, but it may take time for your family to notice enough to say something. In fact, if you are sharing your life with a spouse who is aging right along side you, then he or she has their own hearing struggle going on. It’s understandable if it didn’t come up in conversation. Adult children don’t see their parents as often as they used to, either, so it might be awhile before they recognize the signs in mom or dad.
5. I Notice It Sometimes But It Seems to Come and Go
It’s very common for hearing loss to affect high-frequency sounds only. What that means to you is that the hearing problem can seem to come and go, so it doesn’t seem real. That’s a common reason many people with hearing loss put the blame on the speaker. You seem to hear everything else just fine, after all. You blame the mumbling as opposed to noticing your hearing loss. At some point, friends and family might point out that you seem to be missing parts of the conversation, but you can continue to deny your hearing loss until that happens.
What can you do to stop denying the problem? The answer is simple. Ask your doctor next time you have a physical if you might have hearing loss or go ahead and make an appointment to double check. A simple in-office test using a tuning fork can shine some light on the problem.
If the answer turns out to be “maybe”, then you at least have factual information to consider. The next step will be a professional hearing test with an audiologist to see the extent of your loss and to find solutions to fix the problem. There is no way to reverse age-related ear damage, but something as simple as hearing aids is a real life-changer for people who have been denying their hearing loss for way too long.
You know you are feeling more cranky these days but don’t know why? Hearing loss is a problem nearly 50 million people in this country face, according to the Hearing health Foundation, but, for many, it sneaks up on them with age. Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t end at your ears, either. Studies show that even minor hearing loss will increase the risk of memory problems and dementia. What you might decide is just a sign of age may actually be a treatable medical problem. It’s time to find out and end that cranky state then you can look for ways to manage age-related hearing loss.
Consider Some Facts About Hearing Loss
Finding out a little more about what you’re dealing with is a practical place to start. For many individuals, hearing loss is a natural side effect of getting older. One out of every 3 people over the age of 65 has some variation of hearing loss. It’s not fully understood why this happens, but it may be due to years of the noise. Everything from the music you listened to when you were 16 to driving with the window down in traffic. The world is full of potentially ear-damaging noise that can erode the delicate mechanisms that help you hear.
Chronic illnesses that become more common with age are a possible factor, as well. High blood pressure, for example, or diabetes can both interfere with blood flow, which causes damage to the nerves of the inner ear.
Figure out How to Recognize the Signs
People tend to take their hearing for granted, so when it starts to fail, they don’t recognize the signs. For instance:
- It’s a struggle to understand words when there is background noise like a fan or the AC
- Always asking people to repeat themselves or even worse, saying "what" a lot
- Always feeling like you are being left out of the conversation
No wonder you’re cranky. It’s the small things that are the most frustrating. For example, it becomes more difficult to understand words with "S" or "F" in them. You might not appreciate that’s what is happening, though, because you don’t hear the words well enough to make the connection.
Develop a Plan to Manage Hearing Loss
First find out if you actually have hearing loss. Start by asking a family member if they notice you struggling to keep up with conversations or if you say "What?" a little too often. If there is any doubt, then a hearing exam will clarify everything for you. The physician will look inside your ears for obvious problems like a build up of wax or visible trauma.
The next step is to get a hearing test from a professional. This not only helps to confirm your hearing loss but it also gauges the extent of it. The audiologist will recommend the next course of action for you based on the results of the test. In most cases, that will involve getting hearing aids. If you are experiencing this kind of age-related hearing loss, you will benefit greatly from these medical devices.
Bus Some Quality Hearing Aids
Find a certified hearing aid store and take some to time find the right brand and model for your needs. Modern devices do more than just amplify sound. They block out the background noises, connect to phones and computers and even pinpoint the direction of a sound. Different styles and types of hearing aids come with different features, so research them all to find out what you need to improve your life.
Consider the style you want for your hearing aids, too. They come in fashionable colors or with no color at all, so they are practically invisible.
There is no downside to dealing with your hearing loss, but, plenty if you don’t beyond just making that grumpy attitude.
If you have hearing loss then it might be time to do something about it, but for most people, there’s a learning curve. The stuff you need to manage the problem doesn’t always come cheap such as a good hearing aid, for example, or a hearing test, so your might be tempted to look around and see what else is available.
If you do, you’d be making the biggest mistake of your life when it comes to your hearing loss. Like any sector, there are good and bad products out there for hearing loss, so you need to take your time and make smart choices. Consider some of the more common mistakes people make when it comes to hearing loss.
Buying Candles for Your Ears
It’s the right idea, but the wrong approach. Hearing loss might be due to wax build-up but ear-cleaning candles are not the answer. In theory, ear candles should break up and pull out the wax plug, giving you back your hearing, but there is no proof that it works that way. The truth is the candles may do more harm than good. It’s possible you may damage an otherwise healthy ear by using them.
The best option in this scenario is to get an ear exam. Let a doctor tell you there is wax build up and fix the problem for you, instead. A physical exam provides you with a proper diagnosis, so you can develop more realistic treatment solutions – ones that improve your quality of life, instead of just cost you money.
Too Much Focus on Style
Not all hearing aids are the same. You want to find a high-quality device that comes with functions that benefit you –that rarely comes in a tiny, cute package, though. Some of the newer digital hearing aids are very smart looking but they may not have the power necessary to help you hear.
When shopping for hearing aids, use a certified retailer. Sit down and discuss what you need to get from your new device. Look at the various functions and decide what each one can do for you personally. Once you have a working idea of what you need from your hearing aids, start looking at the various designs to see what fits and what doesn’t. If you make the style your primary concern, you may end up with a hearing aid that does less, costs more and needs batteries daily.
Ask Plenty of Questions
Going from diagnosis to wearing hearing aids takes time and patience. Make sure you ask plenty of questions along the way, instead of rushing into a purchase. Start by creating a list of questions for your ear doctor before your ear exam. Once you confirm that the problem isn’t simple ear wax build-up, you’ll need to see an audiologist for a hearing test. Make a list of e questions you want to ask before the test, too. When you get to the point where you are buying hearing aids, bring with you a whole new set of questions for the retailer. Informed consumers make better buys.
Know What Kind of Hearing Device You are Buying
Consider your hearing aids an investment, so do your research. There is a big difference between a personal amplification device you might buy off the Internet, for instances, and a digital hearing aid you get from a certified distributor. It’s up to you to understand where these difference lie so you can make an informed decision before the purchase.
Hearing loss is a complex problem, but there are solutions for most people. You can make the choice to face your condition with as much information as possible or to try to make shortcuts that will ultimately cost you.