The signs and symptoms of hearing loss

Some signs of hearing loss are obvious, but others are more subtle or misunderstood. Bupa audiologist Simon Davis explains the difference.

About one in six Australians are affected by hearing loss. While it’s more common as we get older, it can also affect younger people.

Davis says hearing loss is often a gradual process. It is widely reported to take about seven years from the time a person first starts to notice a problem to the time they see an audiologist.

There is some evidence to suggest not seeking help early can result in a greater amount of damage to your hearing, but this is sometimes over-stated. Davis says it’s the reduced quality of life for those with hearing loss that concerns him most. We all want to be able to converse with friends, family and work colleagues and hearing loss will significant impact on this.

Tell-tale signs of hearing loss

Hearing is a vital part of our communication with others, so it’s often family and friends who really notice the signs and symptoms of hearing loss.

“It’s very easy to say ‘everyone mumbles’, or ‘the TV is hard to listen to’,” says Davis. “If one person is telling you that you have a problem, you might not agree, but if a lot of people are saying that you are having some trouble with your hearing then you probably do have a problem with your hearing.”

Davis says those with hearing loss often struggle to hear when they can’t see someone’s face.

“You might be having trouble hearing people on the phone or maybe you consistently need the television louder than other people. You may also have issues in a room when someone is facing the other way or doing another activity,” says Davis. “This is because people with hearing loss often rely on lip reading as a work around, even though they may not be aware they are so reliant on it. All of us lip read to some extent and most of us are unaware that it is a tool we use in conversation, even with good hearing. The hearing impaired person is just more reliant on it.”

Another key sign is becoming tired when communicating with others.

“Often those with hearing loss have to work much harder to concentrate on what a person is saying,” says Davis. “They have to work and concentrate very hard to get the same amount of information as a person without hearing problems, so often those with hearing loss complain about social settings like going to a restaurant (particularly if there is background noise) making them feel very tired.”

Other more obvious signs include:

  • Difficulty hearing sounds around the home like the doorbell.
  • Unable to hear traffic noise.
  • Having trouble hearing people on the phone or avoiding phone conversations.
  • Everything sounds muffled.
  • Withdrawal from social situations.
  • Constantly asking people to repeat themselves, speak more clearly or slowly.
Close up of an ear

Misunderstood signs

Davis says the trend towards open plan living has resulted in many social situations being held in spaces with poor acoustics. 

“Having trouble with background noise is not necessarily a sign you’re having a problem with hearing loss,” says Davis. 

He says a simple test is to ask yourself: “Am I having more difficulty hearing than the people I am with, or more than I would expect to have under the circumstances in which I am communicating?”

Davis says talking to people with a wide range of accents can also cause people to question their hearing unnecessarily. “We live in a multicultural country which is wonderful but it can provide challenges for those with hearing loss.”

“Both of these things (poor acoustics and different accents) can make it more challenging for those without hearing loss too,” says Davis.

Seeking help for hearing loss

Davis says seeking help for hearing loss shouldn’t be daunting. A hearing test involves responding to sounds and repeating words at different volume levels. The Audiologist will then provide you with advice based on the results. Having a friend or family member come with you can also be beneficial.

If you do have trouble hearing, he says there is often a simple solution to suit your lifestyle. It doesn’t have to mean a big chunky hearing aid anymore as the devices on the market now have come a long way in recent years.
“They are modern, high fidelity, aesthetically pleasing devices and they make your quality of life a lot better,” he says.
A hearing assessment should not only been seen a pathway to hearing aids, it will also provide you with a report on the general health of your ears and hearing. An Audiologist may also refer you to your GP for further testing by an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist (ENT) if there is anything found of concern.
Bupa hearing does not require you to have a referral from a hearing test, however, if you are a pensioner and eligible to receive services under the OHS voucher system, then clearance from your GP will be required. 

Bupa Hearing

Bupa Hearing provides full hearing assessments with qualified hearing clinicians, services for hearing aids and great discounts for Bupa customers who have or need hearing devices.

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