How Do I Know if I Have Hearing Loss?

If you think you or a loved one may have hearing loss, you are not alone.  Oftentimes people notice signs of hearing loss but do not take the steps to get it treated right away.  Typically, it takes people an average of seven years to seek treatment.  At Discover Hearing we want to change this statistic with our campaign of Growing Hearing Awareness.

You may have hearing loss if:

  • You hear people speaking but you have to strain to understand their words.
  • You frequently ask people to repeat what they said.
  • You don’t laugh at jokes because you miss too much of the story or the punch line.
  • You frequently complain that people mumble.
  • You need to ask others about the details of a meeting you just attended.
  • You play the TV or radio louder than your friends, spouse and relatives.
  • You cannot hear the doorbell or the telephone.
  • You find that looking at people when they speak to you makes it easier to understand.
  • You miss environmental sounds such as birds or leaves blowing.
  • You find yourself avoiding certain restaurants because they are too noisy, or certain people, because you cannot understand them.
  • You hear a ringing sound in your ears, especially when it is quiet.

What Causes Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss can be due to several factors such as the aging process, exposure to loud noise, medications, infections, head or ear trauma, congenital (birth) or genetic factors, diseases, as well as a number of other causes. Hearing loss often occurs gradually throughout a lifetime.

How is Hearing Loss Diagnosed?

If you have any symptoms of hearing loss, you should see a Hearing Aid Practitioner to have a formal hearing evaluation. This hearing evaluation, is diagnostic in nature and allows the Registered Hearing Aid Practitioner (RHAP) to determine the type, nature and degree of your hearing loss. Your sensitivity, acuity and accuracy to speech understanding will be assessed as well.

The hearing evaluation will also include a thorough case history and a visual inspection of the ear canal and eardrum. Additional tests of middle ear function may also be performed.

Results of the hearing evaluation are plotted on a graph called an audiogram. The audiogram provides a visual view of your hearing test results across various pitches or frequencies, especially the ones necessary for understanding speech.

The audiogram and results from your speech understanding tests are used to create a prescription by which hearing aids are programmed, if necessary.

Referrals are sent to your physician when the RHAP identifies any “red flags” that require further investigation.

What are the Different Degrees of Hearing Loss?

After you undergo a hearing evaluation, the results are plotted on a chart called an audiogram. Loudness is plotted from top to bottom.  The top of the graph is very quiet and the bottom of the graph is very loud.  Frequency, or pitch, from low to high, is plotted from left to right.  Hearing level (HL) is measured in decibels (dB) and is described in general categories, not by percentages.  The general hearing loss categories used by most hearing professionals are as follows:

  • Normal hearing (0 to 25 dB HL)
  • Mild hearing loss (26 to 40 dB HL)
  • Moderate hearing loss (41 to 70 dB HL)
  • Severe hearing loss (71 to 90 dB HL)
  • Profound hearing loss (greater than 91 dB HL)

What are the Different Types of Hearing Loss?

There are three types of hearing loss:

1. Sensorineural hearing loss: When the problem is in the inner ear, a sensorineural hearing loss is the result. This commonly occurs from damage to the small hair cells, or nerve fibers, in the organ of hearing. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss and accounts for more than 90 percent of hearing loss in all hearing aid wearers. The most common causes of this hearing loss are age-related changes and noise exposure. Loss may also result from disturbance of inner ear circulation, increased inner ear fluid pressure, or from disturbances of nerve transmission. There are many excellent options for the client with sensorineural hearing loss.

2. Conductive hearing loss: When there is a problem in the external or middle ear, a conductive hearing impairment occurs. Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is not conducted efficiently through the ear canal, eardrum, or tiny bones of the middle ear, resulting in a reduction of the loudness of sound that is heard. Conductive losses may result from earwax blocking the ear canal, fluid in the middle ear, middle ear infection, obstruction of the ear canal, perforation (hole) in the eardrum membrane, or disease of any of the three middle ear bones. All conductive hearing losses should be evaluated by a physician to explore medical and surgical options.

3. Mixed hearing loss – When there are problems in the middle and inner ear, a mixed hearing impairment is the result (i.e. conductive and a sensorineural impairment).

What Style of Hearing Aid Do I Need?

There are many types of hearing aids today, and the style or device is dependent upon the user’s individual needs.  There are behind-the-ear styles as well as in-the-ear styles.  Also, hearing aid technology has advanced, with many new and improved options from which to choose.

Hearing aids are available in many different sizes and styles, thanks to advancements in digital technology and miniaturization of the internal components. Many of today’s hearing aids are considered sleek, compact, and innovative – offering solutions to a wide range of hearing aid users. When selecting a style of hearing aid, the following should be considered:

  • The type/degree of the hearing loss
  • Power requirements
  • Manual dexterity and visual abilities
  • Cosmetics and aesthetics
  • Skin sensitivities
  • Anatomical and medical considerations

Myths About Hearing Loss

“My hearing loss is normal for my age.” Well-meaning doctors maybe saying this to their patients every day but what does that really mean?  Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common hearing loss people have.  It is not necessarily “normal” to have any sort of hearing loss at any age.  When a hearing loss is present the hearing should be monitored and consulted on individual hearing solutions.

“I have one ear that’s down a little, but the other one’s okay.” Most types of hearing loss affect both ears fairly equally, and about 90% of clients are in need of hearing aids for both ears. Our ears are exposed to the same environments and usually are affected in the same manner.  If a client has one ear that has been damaged more than the other, its not to say there isn’t damage in the “better” ear as well.  Our bodies learn to adapt and we tend to favor the “better” ear, sometimes leading us to believe there is nothing wrong with it.

“I’m too old to start wearing hearing aids.”  The longer a client waits to start using amplification the harder the transition can be.  However you can never be too old to improve your quality of life.

“Hearing aids make everything too loud.”  With today’s advanced digital hearing aid circuits that are programmed to your individual hearing needs, hearing aids will only be set to what is required based on the input level.  Automatic features help reduce unwanted background noise and increase soft input levels, such as speech.

“I only wear my hearing aids when I need them.” How do we know when we “need” to hear something and when we don’t need to hear something?  Wearing your hearing aids from morning to night gives the brain the proper amount of time to adjust to all the new sounds it’s receiving.  When it comes to our hearing, if we don’t use it we lose it.

“I don’t want to try hearing aids because my friend says they don’t work.”  Everyone is an individual and has their story.  Create your own story. There are many reasons why people do not have success with their hearing aids.  With today’s technology many of those reasons are more personal than from the actual device.  Did your friend go back for adjustments or follow up appointments?  How old is the technology they are using? What level of technology are they using? What was their expectation or mind set going into the experience?  When did they start using technology? Do they have auditory deprivation?

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