What are the symptoms of hearing loss?
- Trouble detecting soft or high-pitched sounds is often the first sign that stereocilia —the delicate hair cells that convert sound waves into electrical signals within the ear—have been damaged. Children’s voices are an example of high-pitched voices.
- You frequently ask others to repeat what they have said. This may be especially happening when speaking to others over the phone or on Zoom.
- Speech sounds muffled or unclear, or it seems like more people “mumble”
- Tinnitus, ringing in the ears or noises heard in the ears that aren’t present, are other early symptoms of hearing loss.
- Dizziness or vertigo.
- You have trouble following conversations where there is background noise, such as restaurants.
- Needing to turn up the volume of the television or use captions
- Fatigue, especially after long periods of listening.
- Withdrawal from conversations or avoidance of situations where you know you will struggle to hear clearly.
Health problems associated with hearing loss:
Hearing loss is frustrating for those that have it and their families, but new research finds that untreated hearing loss may lead to an increased risk of having other health problems as well.
Double the risk of dementia. Recent research from Johns Hopkins reveals that decreased hearing is linked with dementia. In a study that tracked 639 adults for nearly 12 years, Johns Hopkins expert Frank Lim M.D and his colleagues found that mild hearing loss doubled dementia risk. Moderate loss tripled risk, and people with a severe hearing impairment were five times more likely to develop dementia. “Brain scans show us that hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain,” Lin says. Over many years, people with hearing loss may become more withdrawn. This social isolation can lead to atrophy of the brain, which may also contribute to dementia.
Walking problems and increased fall-risk. When walking or moving, your ears pick up subtle cues that help with balance. Hearing loss mutes these important soft sounding signals. Impaired hearing makes your brain work harder in order to process sound. This subconscious brain function multitasking may affect some of the mental processing needed to walk safely.
Diabetes. A recent study published in the International Journal Of Epidemiology evaluated the association between diabetes mellitus and the development of incident hearing loss. In a large cohort study of young and middle-aged men and women, Diabetes mellitus was associated with the development of bilateral hearing loss. These patients have a moderately increased risk of future hearing loss. They noted:
Higher levels of HbA1c, representing higher long-term glucose levels and poor glycemic control, were progressively associated with hearing-loss risk.
The association of diabetes with hearing loss was stronger in younger (<50 years) than in older participants.
Cardiovascular disease. An interesting 2009 study by Friedland and colleagues8 published in Laryngoscope showed that the audiometric patterns—particularly low-frequency (sloping) and flat (strial) losses—were strongly correlated with cardiovascular disease. In fact, the researchers reported that patients with low-frequency hearing loss should be regarded as “at risk” for cardiovascular events, and appropriate medical referrals should be considered. One chart in the study suggests that about 85% of diagnosed strokes were associated with individuals who had flat or low-frequency sloping losses, and the authors posit that this may reflect either a common vascular pathology within the cerebrovascular system or a generalized vascular compromise effecting both hearing and cardiovascular structures.
Depression. Acquired sensorineural hearing loss may increase the risk of subsequent depression. Study results demonstrate that sensorineural hearing loss is an independent risk factor regardless of sex, age, and comorbidities. Moreover, a strong association between hearing loss and subsequent depression among adults of all ages, particularly those aged between 49 and 65 years old.
Hearing impairment often goes unnoticed.
Self-diagnosing a hearing loss is very difficult, as you can’t hear what you’re missing. Hearing loss can be so slow and gradual that you don’t notice the difference from day to day and have no way to compare to what your hearing was once like.
If a loved one has expressed any concerns that you may have a hearing loss or you’ve experienced any of the common symptoms of hearing loss, then we strongly encourage you to schedule a comprehensive audiology exam.