48 million Americans suffer from hearing loss to a certain degree, but a surprisingly large number are unaware of their problem. Hearing loss develops gradually, and the brain helps fill in the missing gaps by utilizing resources that would otherwise go toward other cognitive functions. This might sound like a good thing, but untreated hearing loss is associated with many potential health complications. People with hearing loss in Elk Grove should learn to spot the signs.
How to Tell When Your Hearing is Impaired
One in five Elk Grove residents has hearing loss, making it the third most common physical condition in California. Untreated hearing loss increases your risks of developing a number of physical, social and psychological health problems. According to a study published in JAMA Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, your risk of dementia is 50 percent higher; depression, 40 percent higher; and falls, 30 percent higher.
The best way to prevent these and other health complications is through treatment, but unless you are aware of a problem, you aren’t likely to have your hearing checked. Your Elk Grove audiologist recommends watching for the following signs of hearing loss:
You have trouble understanding consonants
. Hearing loss usually affects high-pitched frequencies first. This makes it hard to understand consonant sounds like S, F, Th, Sh, V, K and P. If you have trouble distinguishing between words like “show” and “throw,” you are probably misunderstanding key parts of conversation. Many people experiencing high-frequency hearing loss blame others for mumbling when they speak, but the reality is other people aren’t the problem.
You no longer notice everyday sounds.
If you no longer hear common noises like birds, crickets and frogs; fail to notice ticking clocks and blinking turn signals and find women and children especially hard to understand, it’s likely you are experiencing high-frequency hearing loss. High-pitched sounds and voices usually measure at frequencies around 2,000 Hz or higher, the same ones affected by hearing loss.
You find it tough to follow conversations in crowded settings.
High-frequency hearing loss makes it very hard to distinguish speech in noisy environments. Struggling to follow along is physically and mentally exhausting and leads to a condition known as listening fatigue; for this reason, many individuals with hearing loss forgo social outings. This can lead to withdrawal and isolation, increasing your risk of loneliness, depression and cognitive decline. The brain needs stimulation in order to thrive.
You have a ringing in your ears.
50 million Americans experience tinnitus, a ringing (or other noise) in their ears. When the hair cells in the inner ear are damaged, usually as a result of noise exposure, they are no longer able to transmit electrical signals to the brain. Experts theorize tinnitus is the brain’s way of trying to compensate for these missing frequencies. Tinnitus is often (but not always) associated with hearing loss, so any ringing in the ears should prompt a visit to an audiologist.
The majority of people with hearing loss suffer from damage to the inner ear. This is termed sensorineural hearing loss (sometimes referred to as nerve damage) and, while incurable, is usually treatable with hearing aids. These amplify the high frequencies you are missing, allowing you to follow conversations more easily and reduce listening fatigue. Many patients are able to enjoy the same activities they took part in when their hearing was normal.
Because early detection is so important to your long-term health, your Elk Grove audiologist recommends making hearing exams a regular part of your health checkup. They’re in detecting hearing loss and ensuring you receive the treatment you need to avoid the many detrimental effects of hearing loss.