Symptoms of Hearing Loss
In many cases, hearing fades so slowly, its departure goes unnoticed. You may think that people are mumbling more, your spouse needs to speak up, and the telephone is an inferior communication device. As long as some sound still comes in, you may assume your hearing is fine.
At the early stage of hearing loss, high-pitched sounds, such as children's and female voices, and the sounds "S" and "F" become harder to decipher. Other symptoms of hearing loss include:
- Trouble understanding phone conversations
- Trouble hearing above background noise
- Trouble following a conversation when more than one person speaks at once
- Perception that people are not speaking clearly or mumbling
- Often misunderstanding what people say and responding inappropriately
- Often having to ask people to repeat themselves
- Frequent complaints by others that the TV is too loud
- Ringing, roaring, or hissing sounds in the ears, known as tinnitus
Levels of Hearing Loss
Doctors classify hearing loss by degrees: from mild, moderate, severe, or profound. As the stages progress, the person with hearing loss becomes increasingly cut off from the world of speech and sounds. The symptoms of these categories include:
Mild hearing loss. One-on-one conversations are fine but it becomes hard to catch every word in the presence of background noise.
Moderate hearing loss. You often need to ask people to repeat themselves during in-person and telephone conversations.
Severe hearing loss. Following a conversation is almost impossible without a hearing aid.
Profound hearing loss. You cannot hear other people speaking, unless they are extremely loud. Without a hearing aid or cochlear implant you cannot understand speech.
Treatment for Hearing Loss
Treatment depends on the type and source of hearing loss. Surgery may reverse hearing loss caused by otosclerosis, scar tissue, or infection while Ménière's disease is sometimes treatable with medication and diet modification.
Hearing loss caused by infection can often be treated with antibiotics.
If you think your hearing loss stems from medication use, talk with your doctor about alternative drug options. Prompt medical treatment for sudden hearing loss may increase the chance of recovery.
People with permanent hearing loss need to learn how to function with the hearing they still have. Most people with permanent hearing loss can benefit from using a hearing aid -- yet only one in five eligible people use them. Hearing aids are tiny instruments you typically wear in or behind your ear that make sounds louder. Things do sound different through a hearing aid, so it's important to talk with your doctor to set realistic goals.
Other sound-enhancing technologies include personal listening systems that allow you to tune in to what you want to hear and mute other sounds. TV-listening systems make it possible for you to hear the television or radio without turning the volume way up. Different kinds of phone-amplifying devices are available to make conversations possible on home and mobile phones. Finally cochlear implants are used mainly with young children but are becoming more popular among older adults with profound hearing loss.