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Whether you have healthy hearing or have specific hearing needs, you can face a myriad of questions that concern hearing health. There is in fact a lot to know and think about when it comes to the issue of hearing loss, which faces millions of people in the United States—including a growing number of Millenials and teenagers. Hearing loss cannot be reversed but there are many very useful ways to ensure that the hearing you do have is healthy and sustainable. Understanding your hearing habits, abilities, and needs will go a long way toward improving your physical and mental health. This short guide to starting questions introduces you to some of these issues.
What Causes Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss can be the result of medical conditions, family history, and environmental factors—from the places we live in, work at, and visit for fun. Some causes of short-term and long-term hearing loss include:
- Family medical history
- Using in-hear headphones
- Exposure to short term and long term loud noises (including sounds of gunfire or explosions, noise from factory machinery and/or large equipment, as well as loud music taken in at live concerts)
- A buildup of ear wax
- Changes in air pressure, as happens when flying or underwater
What Are the Signs of Hearing Loss?
- Ringing in your ears (otherwise known as tinnitus)
- Difficulty following conversation with individuals and/or groups of people
- Frequently asking people to repeat what they have just said
- Needing to listen to your TV or headphones to a high volume
- The ability to hear the sound of conversation but difficulty making out distinct words
- Preferring one ear over the other
How Does Hearing Loss Affect Everyday Situations?
Hearing loss can be a very gradual process that profoundly affects your abilities to be and communicate in the world. It can make it difficult to follow conversations with more than one person, and to participate in public places such as a coffee shops and restaurants where there are multiple conversations happening, music might be playing, and the general commotion of the space makes it difficult to focus. People experiencing gradual hearing loss may eventually avoid social situations altogether because it can be incredibly frustrating, sad, and disappointing to not participate fully—not to mention anxiety producing.
There are many ways in which untreated hearing loss can negatively affect your worklife. At work, hearing loss may impede your ability to participate in meetings, to answer the phone, or to take command of conversation for fear of talking too loudly or too softly. Even at work, experiencing hearing loss can make you feel tired, stressed out, frustrated, annoyed, or nervous and embarrassed.
What Can I Do to Prevent Further Hearing Loss?
- Switch from using in-ear headphones to using over-ear headphones
- Limit exposure to loud sounds (including headphones) to an hour a day. When possible, diminish the sound to 60% volume
- Always have ear plugs on-hand, especially when working in loud spaces
- Cover your ears when facing sudden and temporary noises, as when vehicles such as fire trucks and police cars have their sirens on
- Limit exposure to venues that produce loud sounds or take frequent breaks from them
- Use a low volume on your TV and computer speakers
Hearing loss can have unexpected consequences in your social life, at work, and in how you communicate with family. Admitting that you may have changing hearing health needs is incredibly important to maintaining healthy hearing. While it can be difficult to admit that you may not hearing as well as you used to, this is a very important first step to bettering your physical and emotional health. Becoming aware of your hearing capabilities is also an important first step in letting your friends, family, and coworkers communicate with you in more productive ways.
If you have identified the signs of hearing loss for yourself or for a loved one, you are well on your way to practicing healthier hearing habits pointed to above. It is also very important to visit us at South Shore Hearing Center, where our team can provide you the safest and most effective diagnosis of potential hearing loss.