When you start to notice symptoms of hearing
difficulty or hearing loss, it can be confusing and scary.
Once you start experiencing some of these signs, it doesn't mean
you'll lose hearing forever - it just means it's time to come in and see us!
Learn more about signs & symptoms of hearing loss below.
Ringing in Your Ears
Ringing or buzzing in the ears is called tinnitus (pronounced TIN-nuh-tus or tin-EYE-tus). Tinnitus is often a symptom of hearing loss but can be a sign of a more significant problem.
There are two theories regarding the cause of hearing loss-related tinnitus. Both involve damage to the nerve endings responsible for hearing. One is that the nerve endings in the cochlea are damaged and bent all the time, continually sending a signal to the brain. The other theory is that the brain is no longer receiving stimuli from the damaged nerve endings and is looking for them. This idea is similar to phantom limb pain.
If you're experiencing tinnitus, it's a good idea to have your hearing tested. Amplification can help manage hearing loss-related tinnitus. Stimulating your healthy nerve endings masks the sounds caused by your damaged nerve endings.
Difficulty Hearing in One Ear
An asymmetrical hearing loss is a hearing loss in one ear or worse in one ear than the other. While it's typical to have hearing loss as we age, it's not good to have a difference between your ears. Both of your ears have been the same places and done the same things, so they should be the same!
A difference between your ears can cause unique hearing problems. You can have trouble knowing which direction sounds are coming from, have difficulty hearing in noisy places, and feel unbalanced.
You can have a difference between your ears for a variety of reasons. Viral infections, nerve pathologies, trauma (acoustic or physical), middle ear dysfunction, or outer ear blockages can all cause hearing differences between your ears.
There are medical treatments that can help. Obstruction removal, medication, or surgery may improve hearing. Viral infections left untreated can cause permanent hearing damage. While these treatments may not completely restore hearing, they can make it better.
Schedule a hearing test if you or someone you love hears a difference between the ears. We'll find out what's going on and guide you on what to do next.
Difficulty Hearing in Crowded Environments
It takes a lot of focus and attention to listen in an environment with competing sound sources. People with normal hearing can use the context of the conversation to fill in most speech that was missed. When the hearing system is compromised, understanding speech in noisy environments is more difficult. Significant amounts of auditory information are missed or misheard and more listening effort is required. This makes the task of hearing in background noise exponentially more difficult, leading to occasionally or completely avoiding interactions in these environments.
We take each person’s attitude towards noisy environments into consideration. Some of us are more tolerant of noisy environments and will allocate more mental resources to listening in challenging environments. At our office we employ multiple tests with background noise to assess your ability to hear speech in noise, and your preferences and tolerance of background noise.
Turning the TV Up Very Loud
Turning up the TV too loud is a classic symptom of hearing loss. As the cochlea is damaged, higher frequency nerve endings deteriorate first, causing difficulty hearing speech. Consonants are often high frequency sounds and carry the intent and meaning of speech. When someone can’t hear TV dialogue, they compensate for their hearing loss by turning the television louder. They are attempting to amplify the sound from the TV beyond their hearing loss. This is a technique that works well if you live alone, but often family and friends are bothered by the increased volume!
Assistive listening devices (ALDs), such as TV headsets or personal speakers can provide that amplification as well. The TV volume increases and the ALDs are non-customized and will amplify all frequencies. Hearing aids are customized to selectively amplify the frequencies where there is hearing loss and prescriptively apply the amount of amplification needed.