Hearing is one of the five senses that you or anyone else relies on for communication and a whole host of other things. Among the five senses, touch, smell, taste, hearing and sight, it is often hearing which is the most easily affected. You don't have to be a senior citizen to experience hearing loss as it is quite common among younger people as well. This problem is also getting more widespread with each passing day.
Ageing is not the only factor that brings hearing impairment. The causes are many. Certain medications, continuous exposure to loud noise, genetic involvement, injury and some medical conditions may cause hearing loss.
But if you think that you are facing hearing issues, then these symptoms should raise an alarm for you to see an ENT specialist:
- You find it hard to hear phone conversations: Do you find yourself asking the person on the other end of the phone line to 'repeat' themselves, or find yourself pressing the phone instrument right into your ear? If you are trying so hard to hear, you might find yourself missing out on bits of the conversation as focussing to clearly hear the conversation is exhausting work. Getting a hearing test might be a good option if this sounds like you.
- Your TV is blaring: Do you often find people around you shouting above the TV sound complaining that it's too loud? When you find it hard to hear the TV at the average volume and find yourself turning up the sound, this could signify a hearing loss. Doctors are seeing a growing number of patients visiting them after prolonged exposure to loud music and sounds.
- You have trouble hearing in noisy environments: When you are out dining with friends or family at a busy restaurant or accompanying a friend shopping in a busy street, all that background noise makes it difficult to hear what the people are saying. People with hearing loss often have problems masking out background noise.
- You find yourself leaning closer to people to follow the conversation or staring at their lips trying to lip-read what's being said.
- Family members telling 'you're going deaf'?: Trust the views of the people closest to you, they never lie about your health. Family members often are the first to sense signs of hearing loss as they find themselves repeating things to you or calling out louder to get your 'attention'.
Options to deal with hearing loss:
Some of the options to deal with hearing loss are mentioned below.
- Once diagnosed with hearing problems, change your ways of communication - If you or your loved ones have been diagnosed with hearing problems, it is important that both adjust your ways to deal with the problem. Rather than getting angry at the other for not being able to communicate effectively, develop and strategize ways to make communication less problematic and erratic.
- Cochlear implants - This is a newer technology which has become rapidly popular in the past decade or so. These are directly implanted into the inner ear and are designed to bypass the damaged areas of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. These have become very popular, although, are not a replacement of natural hearing. It is only prescribed for people who have severe hearing loss or are deaf.
- Hearing aids - Although selecting a hearing aid is difficult as the patient needs to be comfortable, once it is completed, is one of the best solutions for the hearing impaired. The functionality of these devices can be extended with the hearing assistive technology or HAT devices that can focus the audio waves depending on the situations and give a more tailored approach for every individual's needs.
Prevention and treatment
Treatment: It is difficult to treat hearing loss as in most cases; it may be permanent, except sudden shocks, when your hearing might come back to normal. The only treatments for hearing loss are hearing aids or cochlear implants which can restore hearing partially.
Prevention: Prevention is the best method to avoid hearing loss and in most cases, you should wear ear protection such as mufflers or sound level reduction devices to protect your hearing. Also, practice listening to music, watching TV or movies at lower levels, especially if you are on the headphones. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult an Ent Specialist.