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  • Writer's pictureBruce Salinger

Progressive Hearing Loss and Its Many Warning Signs

Hearing loss is often associated with age; one in two adults over 65 experience some hearing loss. While the condition is common in older individuals, it can also affect people at any age; even children can experience some degree of loss.

The problem with losing hearing is it goes largely unnoticed by those affected. For most people with progressive hearing loss, the changes occur incrementally over time. The gradual progression of the condition usually means family and friends of the affected individual will notice the changes first.

Awareness of the warning signs of progressive loss can help those affected take ownership of the condition. If they know the symptoms, they may not brush their experiences off, saying people are mumbling or their device speakers aren't working. Knowing the types of hearing loss and the signs of progressive conditions will help people seek help when needed.

Types of Hearing Loss

According to medical experts, three forms of loss exist: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed. Sensorineural loss is common and occurs for several reasons, such as excessive exposure to loud noises, age, or other factors — the loss results from damage to the inner ear and hair cells.

Conductive hearing loss is typically a medical or hygiene issue. The loss occurs from obstructions in the middle or external ear. Usually, the obstructions are tumors or earwax buildup.

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of the above, sensorineural and conductive. Therefore, an obstruction and damage to the inner ear result in hearing loss.

5 Warning Signs of Hearing Loss

For many people, hearing loss is not sudden; it is progressive, often developing at a turtle's pace over several years or decades. Thankfully, there are warning signs.

1. Tinnitus

Hearing loss and ringing in the ears — tinnitus — often goes hand-in-hand. The severity of tinnitus varies. Some people may experience only occasion and short-lived ringing, an experience that is over in seconds or minutes, but others may deal with prolonged bouts that can last days or weeks.

2. Increased Volume

While the affected individual might not notice, it is common for people around them to notice an increase in device volumes, from televisions to cell phones. As hearing goes, a person must continue to increase the volume to get the same auditory experience as before.

3. Confused Conversations

A person experiencing hearing loss will often ask people to repeat themselves or misinterpret what someone said. In many situations, the affected individual may accuse others of mumbling or whispering. They may also play along to social cues, like laughing when others laugh.

4. Raised Voice

Often, when a person experiences hearing loss, they will speak louder than usual. They likely do not realize the volume change. Think about when you wear headphones or earplugs and try talking to someone; it is the same, except now there are no headphones to remove.

5. Missing Household Cues

Someone experiencing progressive hearing loss may miss many standard household signals. For example, they might not hear the doorbell or a ringing phone. When such things happen, it is best for family and friends to intervene.

Hearing loss is not always immediately apparent to the affected individual. Talk to your loved one if you begin noticing warning signs of loss.


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