About Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss, Signs & Symptoms

Predominantly, hearing loss is a natural part of growing old, just as most older adults require reading glasses. In 9 out of 10 cases, hearing loss is age-related. Apart from this, constant exposure to loud noise, head trauma, or genetics – to name only a few – could also cause hearing loss.

  • Approximately 10% of the population suffers from some level of hearing loss.
  • The chances of having a hearing loss increase as you age.
  • 50% of those over 60 can expect to have hearing problems.
  • On average, people wait seven years before seeking help with their hearing.

Signs & Symptoms

A hearing loss develops gradually, almost imperceptibly. Unlike other sensory impairments – for example, degenerated sight – a reduced sense of hearing is not perceived instantaneously and may go unnoticed for many years.

Not only are signs and symptoms of hearing loss very subtle; they are also manifold and often differ from person to person. Reasons for concern may include the following:

  • Asking people to repeat themselves more often than usual.
  • Increasing the volume of the TV and radio regardless of loved ones’ volume preference.
  • Having the impression that everyone mumbles.
  • Having the belief that individual voices, especially those of children or women, are more difficult to understand.
  • Straining to follow conversations and getting tired because of the extra listening effort.
  • Avoiding social gatherings and losing interest in activities that were once enjoyable.

Degrees Of Hearing Loss

We weigh our body weight in kilograms, pounds or stone; measure our height in meters, feet or inches; monitor our heart rate in beats per minute. How do we measure hearing?

Our hearing organs perceive sound as pitch and loudness, respectively as frequency and intensity. Low frequency sound waves produce low pitched, bass sounds while high frequencies produce high pitched, whistle sounds.

Decibels (dB) are the unit used to quantify loudness (our hearing’s perception of sound intensity). A pleasant conversation, for example, has the intensity of 60 dB, a lawn mower up to 100 dB. Our ears respond to intensities between -10 dB and 120 dB.

The severity of a hearing impairment depends on how loud a sound must be before an individual hears it. Degrees of hearing loss are categorized as follows:

Protecting Your Hearing

Extended exposure to loud and excessive noise can damage the delicate hair cells in the inner ear and result in noise-induced hearing loss.

Minimize the risk of acquiring such a hearing loss; follow these simple guidelines:

  1. Wear hearing protection (e.g. proper noise attenuating headphones) in noisy workplaces
  2. Wear earplugs at concerts, music festivals and music clubs; there, noise level can be incredibly loud, comparable to that of a power mower
  3. Move away from the noise source
  4. Lower the volume of your iPod, or your hi-fi system and TV when listening with headphones

Source: Bernafon Canada Ltd.

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