With the holiday season coming to a close, it’s a good time to take a step back and look at how well you could hear everyone. The holidays can involve conversations with people you don’t see often, maybe a large gathering or two, and plenty of less than opportune hearing environments. Were you able to hear and participate in conversations? Was it more challenging in a crowded area or with background noise like music? If so, have no fear, there are opportunities to prioritize and improve your hearing this year!

Signs and symptoms of hearing loss

Age-related hearing loss is slow change. Because it happens so gradually, it can sometimes take years to even fully recognize that there have been changes to your hearing. For this reason, it’s a good idea to review some of these signs and symptoms to make sure you aren’t missing something that should be reported to your healthcare provider. 

  • Background noise– Have you noticed that it’s more difficult to hear in noisy environments such as a crowded restaurant? What about around a large family dinner table? Difficulty hearing when there is background noise is a symptom of hearing loss.
  • Trouble understanding others– This is one of the most commonly reported symptoms with hearing loss, and yet most people aren’t aware of it. Difficulty understanding, rather than hearing, others should be reported to your hearing health provider.
  • Withdrawal from social gatherings– When communicating becomes more of a challenge, those with hearing loss tend to sort of self isolate. Rather than become frustrated with themselves or others, people with hearing loss tend to avoid the conversations altogether.

As you can see, a lot of these circumstances are more common around the holiday season, which is why you may have noticed these changes more recently. 

What should you do next?

Now that you have identified some of the signs and symptoms of hearing loss, what should you do next? The answer is simple, make an appointment with a hearing health provider, or audiologist.

An audiologist will review your past medical and occupational history as well as any symptoms you have experienced. You will then sit for a hearing test.

The hearing test, or audiogram, is recommended for all adults, regardless of medical history or hearing loss. The test itself involves sitting in a soundproof room where beeps of various frequencies and volume are played in each ear separately through headphones. When you hear a beep, you press a button.

The information from this hearing test is printed on a graph detailing your ability to hear specific frequencies. Age-related hearing loss, for example, tends to impact the higher frequencies of sound. If recommended by your audiologist, the graph is used to individualize your treatment. 

How to hear better

The primary form of treatment for age-related hearing loss is hearing aids. Using the results of the hearing test described above, digital hearing aids can be programmed to meet the exact needs of each user. For example, in the case of age-related hearing loss, the hearing aids would only amplify the higher frequencies and to the exact level needed. The lower frequencies would remain untouched as the user has already demonstrated they can hear those within normal limits. 

In addition to hearing aids for the treatment of hearing loss, there are several environmental modifications and communication techniques that can be added to your daily routine to improve your hearing and understanding as early as today.

As discussed, background can be major factor in hearing difficulties. To combat this, try to reduce this noise whenever possible. Turn off televisions or music that are playing in the room or move to quieter spaces to continue your conversation. If you are going out to a restaurant, call ahead for a reservation in a quieter area. 

Furthermore, make sure your area is well-lit. Being able to see the person you are speaking to makes a big difference when trying to hear and understand them. This is because seeing others means that you can also see facial expressions, body language, and possibly even some lip reading. 

There are many ways to prioritize your hearing this New Year, start by making an appointment with Shoals Hearing Clinic for a baseline hearing test and to discuss your options.