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Understanding Hearing Loss

Hearing loss generally develops slowly over many years; the effects become apparent only gradually. This makes it difficult for those affected to recognize that they are actually suffering from a hearing impairment. Relatives, friends or colleagues are often the first to realize that something is wrong.

Relatives, friends or colleagues are often the first to realize that something is wrong.

However, there are clear signs that your hearing is not entirely as it should be. Perhaps you find it difficult to understand phone conversations clearly?

Does your family complain about the volume when you are listening to the radio or television? Do you find it difficult to follow a conversation in a restaurant or when there is a lot of noise in the street around you? Do you often feel exhausted after family celebrations because listening is such an effort? Do you hear better when you are able to look at the person talking to you?

All these are typical signs of a hearing impairment. But don’t worry; hearing loss is not something simply to be endured. You can – and should – do something about it.

Many people find it hard to come to terms with the idea of wearing hearing aids. They put off the decision and only do something about it when the problems associated with poor hearing simply become too much for them.

Still, the earlier you do something about hearing loss, the better. Even when hearing is just starting to deteriorate, hearing aids help to maintain neural pathways in your brain responsible for hearing all the sounds around you. The longer you put off hearing aids, the harder it will be for you to get used to them when you do finally wear them, and more importantly, the more you’ll miss out in life.

Possible impacts of hearing loss

  • Decreased attention

  • Diminished understanding of speech

  • Trouble communicating with others

  • Diminished memory

  • Less willing to embrace the unknown

  • Declining job performance

  • Lack of acknowledgement by others

  • Irritability, stress, depression

  • Withdrawal from social life, isolation

Hearing impairments can occur in all parts of the ear; dysfunctions of the outer or middle ear can generally be treated with medication or surgery. However, a good 80 % of all hearing impairments are caused by dysfunctions of or damage to the inner ear. Today, modern hearing aids can compensate for most inner ear damage.

However, no two cases of hearing loss are the same. Most often people with a hearing impairment are unable to distinguish soft tones and high-pitched sounds and have difficulties hearing sounds such as whispers, children’s voices or birdsong.

Effects of Hearing Loss

With hearing loss, it is often difficult to understand speech. What is not sufficiently appreciated is that the individual’s emotional and mental state may also be affected by the erratic and disrupted communication patterns caused by hearing loss. A person with hearing loss is four times as likely to manifest psychological disturbances than a person with normal hearing. There is also evidence that hearing loss can exacerbate the behavioral picture of patients with Alzheimer's and other cognitive disorders, affecting memory, alertness, and general ability to cope, beyond the expected limiting factors of the disorder without the presence of hearing loss.