5 Signs You Might Have A Hearing Loss
By Shari Eberts
People often ask me, “How did you know you had a hearing loss?” and it is a harder question to answer than you might expect. Hearing loss often sneaks up on you gradually so the signs are easy to miss. It may seem that everyone has simultaneously decided to start mumbling. Or you no longer hear the punch line of jokes. Or you miss important details in meetings. Or you start to avoid socializing or other activities that you like for fear of not being able to participate fully. If some of these things ring true, it is probably time for a hearing test.
I first became aware of my hearing loss in business school. People would make comments in class and I would miss them, particularly the funny ones that were said almost as an aside. I started to worry that I was missing important information that could impact my performance. Given my family history, I knew I was at risk for hearing loss and went immediately for a hearing test. But others may not be so sure. Ask yourself these questions. If several of them are true, you should probably get your hearing tested.
1. Do you hear people talking, but can’t understand what they are saying? To me this is the biggest giveaway. You hear the sounds, but can’t make out the meaning. You often need to ask people to repeat themselves. It is frustrating and can cause you to think people are mumbling. This may be most difficult in noisy environments or if multiple people are involved in the conversation.
2. Does your family complain the TV is too loud? This is often one of the biggest complaints by families of people with hearing loss. In my home, we always watch with the captions on, so we can have the volume at a comfortable level for all.
3. Do you avoid talking on the phone or socializing with others? This is the greatest risk of untreated hearing loss — social withdrawal and isolation. It can not only lead to depression, but cognitive problems like a higher risk of dementia.
4. Does it bother you when people cover their mouths when they speak? You might be lip-reading and not even know it. I always ask people to keep their mouths clear when speaking with me.
5. Does communication exhaust you? Listening tasks require far more effort for people with hearing loss. This extra concentration can leave you exhausted at the end of the day, particularly if it was a day filled with socializing or group meetings.
Most of the time, hearing loss occurs gradually, but if you experience a sudden loss of hearing, head immediately to your doctor, or better yet, an otolaryngologist or ENT, which is a doctor that specializes in diseases and disorders of the ears, nose and throat. Sudden hearing loss can be a sign of a serious medical condition and can also be reversed in certain cases if treated quickly enough.
Hearing loss can make life more difficult but it does not need to upend your life. If you or someone you love has hearing loss, encourage them to get tested and seek out the help they need. The faster they accept and treat their hearing loss, the sooner they will be back in business, enjoying and thriving at life. That was definitely the case for me.Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate and serves on the Board of Trustees of both Hearing Health Foundation and Hearing Loss Association of America. In 2015 she was named a HearStrong Champion for her work to change the stigma surrounding hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss.