Watching for Early Signs of Hearing Loss

Watching for Early Signs of Hearing Loss

With approximately 37.5 million Americans having some form of hearing loss, it should come as no surprise that someone in your family might need to get a hearing test. As the years go by, the percentages of people with hearing loss climbs higher, making it even more likely that your senior family members will develop or already have hearing loss, as well. Of the two most common forms of hearing loss—age-related loss and noise-induced loss—the rates are highest among those above age 70, so hearing tests become even more important as time goes by. 

Although annual hearing tests are recommended for people over 65 as well as those who have been exposed to noise in the workplace or in recreational activities, there are early warning signs you can use to see if hearing loss might be an issue for your loved one. Let’s keep these early signs in mind as a prompt to schedule a hearing test right away. 

Communication Issues

Among the early signs of hearing loss, communication issues are the most common. Indeed, those who have untreated hearing loss can struggle to understand what is going on in a conversation or can miss comments and information that is passed along in everyday contexts. One of the first warning signs of hearing loss is the frequency with which someone asks others to repeat themselves or to speak up. Although we all miss things from time to time, those with untreated hearing loss make these requests much more frequently, including in situations in which others can hear easily. 

Missing out on key information and misinterpreting what others say can be signs, as well. Sometimes people with untreated hearing loss will make a wrong guess at what another person said, and this confusing process can be a sign of hearing loss, as well. Ultimately, some people with more advanced hearing loss can check out on conversations altogether. When faced with the opportunity to struggle to participate in a conversation, some would rather zone out and daydream. If you notice your family member or loved one doing any of these things in a conversation, you might be witnessing an early sign of hearing loss. 

Household Clues

Media devices at home are another early warning sign of hearing loss. The volume on the television or radio is a good way to tell if someone has hearing loss. If your family member or loved one consistently plays these devices at a level higher than is comfortable for the rest of the group, then hearing loss might be an issue. Car radios can be an indicator, as well. Particularly when road and traffic noise compete with the car stereo, a person with hearing loss might turn up that device to a much louder level than others would prefer. You might not be able to tell if a person’s headphones or earbuds are being used at a loud level, but if you can hear them when standing beside that person, it is likely that they are being played at a very loud volume, as well. 

Mental Health Signs

Those with untreated hearing loss demonstrate higher rates of certain mental health issues, such as depression. Although depression on its own is not considered an early warning sign of hearing loss, in combination with any of these other factors you can consider if your loved one is experiencing mental health issues as a direct or indirect result of untreated hearing loss. Those who have trouble communicating tend to become socially isolated, as well. When conversations become frustrating, angering, or embarrassing, a person with untreated hearing loss might prefer to avoid conversations altogether, saying home during social events and even skipping trips into the community that might require communication.

If any of these early warning signs are evident in your family member or loved one, particularly among seniors, they should be a good reason to encourage a hearing test. The test itself is simple, quick, and totally painless, and the results will let us know if treatment is necessary. If we determine that treatment can serve your loved one’s needs, then we will proceed to recommend hearing aids or other assistive technology suited to that individual case of hearing loss.

As we discussed previously, long term untreated hearing loss can have profound physical, mental, and emotional effects for seniors. But there is substantial evidence that taking steps to improve our hearing will go a long way to ensuring our physical and mental well-being as we age. We are living longer, healthier and more actively than our parents generation. We take care of ourselves, and we refuse to sit on the sidelines of life. Since we are living longer, we certainly want to age well, and our generation (the Baby Boomers) tends to “take the Bull by the horn.” But it’s important to understand that we don’t treat hearing loss just to hear with more clarity. We treat hearing loss to improve our quality of life, and the longevity of that quality! Addressing and treating hearing loss can be a long, sometimes challenging process, but most of us are up to the challenge. There are many benefits to treating our hearing loss. Here are just a few: