6 ways hearing loss may be affecting your everyday life

What is hearing loss?

The sensory cells in the inner ear, called hair cells, convert signals from sound into electrical impulses that the auditory nerve sends to the brain. Hearing loss occurs when the cells are damaged, or stop working, which impacts our ability to hear speech and other sounds.

Hearing loss is common

Nearly 1 in 4 adult Canadians report having hearing loss. Although hearing loss can occur suddenly, most often it develops slowly over time. This delay makes changes in hearing hard to detect, especially for the person experiencing hearing loss (often family and friends will notice first). On average, it takes 7 years before hearing loss makes communication difficult enough to do something about it.

What causes hearing loss?

  • Aging
  • Exposure to noise
  • Certain kinds of medication
  • Serious infection
  • Head injury or accidents
  • Other health conditions

With hearing, you need to “use it or lose it.” If a person stops hearing certain sounds—for any reason—the auditory nerve and parts of the brain that process sound get out of practice. Early detection and treatment of hearing loss will allow an Audiologist to bring more of those lost sounds back into hearing range.

Audiologist checking for hearing loss with an otoscope

How can hearing loss affect daily life?

1. In background noise: difficulty hearing in background noise e.g. in a restaurant, at a gathering, with a radio playing.

2. Media: listening to the television or radio at a louder volume than others. (Often friends or family members will comment that the TV is too loud.)

3. Direction of sound: not hearing sounds from behind or when being spoken to from another room.

4. Voices: difficulty hearing whispering, children and women’s voices, or understanding accents.

5. In conversation: having to ask others to repeat several times or explain what has been said.

6. On the phone: being unable to hear the other person speaking on a phone.

For many people, hearing may not be difficult in all situations. For example, a one-on-one conversation in a quiet room may be fine. But there will be other situations where it’s difficult hearing such as when more than one person speaks at the same time, when background noise is present, or hearing when you’re not in close proximity to the person who’s speaking.

Common ways of coping:

It is very common for people to develop ways of coping with hearing loss that don’t solve the problem.

Withdrawal: “I don’t go out to noisy restaurants anymore because I know I won’t be able to hear the conversation.”

Blaming others: “You mumble. You speak too fast. You don’t speak clearly.”

Pretending: “I nod like I’m hearing as I’m trying to figure out what the person just said.”

Visual cues: “If I watch the speaker’s lips or face it’s easier to understand what I’m hearing.”

The thing is, hearing loss is tiring. It takes so much extra effort to work around hearing loss. Many of our patients with treated loss comment on how much extra energy they have. And it makes them wish they didn’t wait so long to address their hearing loss.

Do any of the challenging hearing situations or coping routines sound familiar?

If so, check your hearing with our 2-minute Online Hearing Check.

Online hearing check

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