Symptoms of hearing loss differ from person to person and situation to situation, but usually include the following:
- Hearing speech and other sounds as muffled or indistinct
- Difficulty understanding speech, especially in environments with a lot of background noise or competing voices
- Trouble hearing specific sounds, such as consonants
- Frequently asking others to repeat themselves, speak more slowly, or raise their voices
- Need to turn up radio or television audio even when others aren’t having difficulty hearing (or complain volume is now too loud)
- Withdrawal from participation in conversations and avoiding social situations
- Experiencing exhaustion after family, social, or professional gatherings due to the strain of trying to keep up with conversations
If you experience one or more of these symptoms, it is time to get your hearing professionally evaluated. Hearing tests can be conducted by a trained hearing care professional (HCP) like an audiologist or hearing aid dispenser. HCPs work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, ENT doctor’s offices, and private practices.
A full hearing workup
A hearing evaluation will include a thorough review of your hearing history to evaluate you might have a loss, and the degree and nature of hearing loss. The HCP will start by taking a complete case history, which is necessary to determine the situations in which you feel hearing problems are present. You will discuss your medical history to see if there are reasons to suspect hearing loss based on existing or potential medical conditions, injuries to the head or ears, age, or particular medication. You will also be asked about your genetic history to determine if hearing loss may run in your family (congenital).
After the history is obtained, your HCP will use an instrument called an otoscope to look into your ears to be sure the canals are free of wax buildup or other debris, which can cause or contribute to hearing loss.
During the next phase of assessment, you will be asked to listen to and repeat some words, and also to listen and react to some beeps. Both are used to determine to what degree you can hear soft speech. It is also necessary to listen to beeps at various frequencies to find out which pitches are most impacted by your hearing loss.
What happens if hearing loss is confirmed
Your HCP will look at the results from all tests and measurements to determine if you have hearing loss, as well as the nature and degree of the loss. Treatment recommendations will depend on the cause of your hearing loss and the effect it is having on your life. For some people treating hearing loss is a simple as removing excess wax from the ear canal. Others have fluid in their middle ear or other medical causes that can be treated with medication or surgery. But the best solution for many will be hearing aids.
The first step to treating hearing loss is recognizing there is a problem and taking steps to address it. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above (or someone you care about is) then it’s time for a professional evaluation. And if you need help finding a hearing care professional in your area, simply click on the link and we will help you find one.