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Hearing Loss – Recognising the Signs

Why do we take so long to realise we may have Hearing Loss?

Sounds – they are all around us – from people talking to music, street noise, kids playing and bird singing, we process them all automatically from birth without giving it a great deal of thought once we have recognised what the sounds are, and where they have come from.

Often, once we have visual cue, we allocate the sound we would usually associate with the action – even if over time our ability to hear that sound diminishes. We become so used to what we expect to hear, that our brains may not register that we are no longer hearing that sound in a clear and distinctive manner, because our other senses begin to compensate for the loss – particularly if the loss is gradual and happens over a long period of time.

This is why on average, it takes up to 7 years for people to acknowledge and come to terms with their loss of hearing before seeking advice and help. Statistics show that 1 in 6 Australian have hearing loss to some degree, but unless there is a sudden drop in our ability to hear, gradual changes usually go unnoticed.

Recognising Hearing Loss

Everyone’s situation is different, and hearing loss may have occurred over a long period of time, or quite rapidly as a result of a medical condition, disease or injury. So how we know if we have a loss of hearing?

Here is a check list of some of the signs to be aware of – they are useful tools in helping to identify hearing loss in yourself or a loved one.


  • Asking people to repeat themselves.


When we speak, our voices range from high, mid and low frequencies. Hearing loss, particularly as we age, most commonly affects the higher frequency ranges first. This can result in words and parts of sentences being misheard or even lost, especially if the speaker is a female or child, as their voices usually fall into the higher ranges and tones. Also, it is interesting to note that in speech, the vowel sounds tend to be lower pitch, yet it is the consonant sounds like Th, F,S, Sh, P, V and K that are high pitch and it is these consonant sounds that help us to distinguish the difference between words. Therefore while it not uncommon to have to ask someone to repeat themselves, particularly if you are in a noisy environment, if you find yourself or a loved one constantly saying, “What?” or I didn’t understand that”, or if you find it hard to differentiate between words like “shoe” and “through”, or “Pat” and “Cat”, it may be a sign of hearing loss.


  • Fatigue after a social gathering.


Catching up with family and friends is a special time, but it can also be an exhausting experience. If you find yourself more tired and worn out than usual after a catch up, it could be a sign that you may have been exerting extra energy because of having to concentrate harder when following a conversation. When hearing loss occurs, the brain has to work harder to process the sounds we receive, resulting in a sense of fatigue – or “brain fade”. Other symptoms can include head ache, irritability and a sense of frustration.


  • Difficulty following conversations in group settings or noisy environments.


How often do we find ourselves in social settings, such as restaurants, meetings or gatherings with friends? While regular one to one conversations may not be a problem at all, group situations can prove overwhelming for someone experiencing hearing loss to some degree. Focusing on and processing voices can become extremely difficult when we are not able to filter out background noises. One of the signs of hearing loss may be you feel like not wanting to accept invitations to parties or catch ups, or withdrawing from group situations and activities, because you are worried you will not enjoy it as you once did.

  • People appear to be “mumbling”, especially when they are not facing you.


As we mentioned earlier, we often rely on visual cues when involved in conversation. We can tell much by simple facial expressions, and in fact most people lip read, whether they are consciously aware of it or not. As a result, people with hearing loss will find it more difficult to follow a conversation when the speaker is not facing them. When these cues are not available to them to help make sense of what is being said, it can often make it seem as if people are mumbling when they speak.

This can also make hearing someone on the telephone extremely difficult for someone with hearing loss, even if the volume is up as high as it will go.


  • .Family and friends commenting that the TV or radio is loud.


It is not unusual for Television and Radio commercials to appear be louder than normal programming because of the way the Ads are structured – they are designed to grab your attention so all the sounds, from music to voices are all on the maximum volume setting allowed. In contrast, programs we watch or listen to have fluctuations of sound to create drama and mood, so when someone is speaking whilst there is background music, it can become increasingly difficult for someone with hearing loss to follow the dialogue. If you find that you or a loved one is constantly turning up the sound to a volume louder than “normal” or is putting on the subtitles on their TV to follow what is happening, it can be a good indication that they have a degree of hearing loss.


  • Ringing or buzzing sound in the ears.


At some time in our lives, we have all experienced the sensation of ringing in the ears – usually after being exposed to prolonged loud noises such as a rock concert, mowing the lawn or using power tools. Sharp, sudden noises like explosions and fireworks can also make our ears “buzz”. This is because the ears experience a “shock wave” of sound that temporarily flattens the tiny hairs in our inner ears. Once the hairs bounce back, the buzzing sound usually disappears.

Tinnitus is the name given to the ringing sensation in the ears that is constant. It may come and go intermittently, be louder and softer at times, and can occur in one ear or both. It is not a sound that can be heard externally, and may take the form of whistling, hissing, buzzing or ringing, and may be accompanied by a sense of fullness in the head. It is often more noticeable at night when the person is trying to sleep as often there are no other noises to compete with, or distract the person experiencing the symptoms. While tinnitus can be caused by stress, or other medical conditions, it is often associated with hearing loss.


  • Being told that you are speaking loudly.


Hearing loss doesn’t just affect our ability to hear external sounds – it can also affect how our brains process out own voices, meaning that we often speak at an increased level of sound to compensate.

If you find yourself relating to two or more of these scenarios, having your hearing tested is a very good idea. It is easy to forget that hearing loss impacts more than just the individual- it can impact our relationships with partners and loved ones as the person suffering from hearing loss may become withdrawn from people and activities they would normally enjoy. It can cause frustration between partners and family if they feel they are being ignored or not listened to, simply because the person finds it difficult to engage in conversation. Our caring Team at Hearing Sense can help bridge the gap that hearing loss can create – booking in for a free hearing test at one of our Clinics can put you on the path to better hearing – make each day a great hearing day! Simply call 8331 8047 today.

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