These days, people are no longer patients, they are healthcare consumers who take charge of their personal health management. Illnesses like heart disease or diabetes are not just a normal part of getting old, either. With this awareness, people develop an understanding of why diseases happen and how to prevent them. So what about hearing loss? Is a little hearing decline seen as a problem similar to high blood pressure or blood sugar? What is minor hearing loss and why does it happen?
What is Mild Hearing Loss?
A gradual loss of hearing is something people try to ignore until it becomes more prevalent, but is that the right choice? With hearing loss, how bad does it have to be before a person really pays attention and asks questions like is there anything I can do to prevent it? Like most things, lifestyle plays a big role in the age-related hearing loss. It starts slow and builds over time, so it’s easy to miss.
Mild hearing loss is defined as a loss of sound recognition 26 to 45 decibels as measured on a professional hearing assessment tool called an audiogram. For many, this is how age-related hearing loss it begins. An audiogram is a graph that marks a patient’s audible threshold as it relates to certain sounds levels. A person at the beginning stage of hearing decline might experience mumbled-sounding conversations every once in awhile. Almost like the ear becomes blocked occasionally, so the sound is dampened.
Why Mild Hearing Loss Matters?
The mild hearing loss does affect your life even if you don’t know it. During conversations, hard sounds become softer or disappear completely. When your boss tells you there is an office meeting at five o’clock, it sounds like:
There i an oice meeing at ive o’oo
Specific words may seem mumbled, so you begin mumbling “what” back more than you care to admit. That trend will wear on just about everyone’s nerves eventually. Even a slight decline in your hearing can interfere with your fun. Maybe you start misunderstanding what the characters on your favorite TV show say and bet frustrated as you lose track of what going on in the story.
You’ll look for ways to compensate for your hearing loss, like putting on headphones or using earbuds. That quick fix only adds to the problem, though. The increase in sound waves going directly into the ear canal causes damage to the delicate mechanisms within.
Hearing Loss and Your Sense of Self
As you become aware of your hearing decline, you might equate it with being broken or damaged somehow. For most people, mild hearing loss is related to aging. Denying the hearing loss exists is much more comfortable than accepting it and seeking treatment.
While it is easy for you to deny, it’s much harder for the people in your life to ignore. Their recognition of a hearing problem can lead to conflict, especially in the early stages. You fight the obvious, but they have to deal with the high volume on the TV every night, the miscommunications and even the safety issues that might arise with hearing decline. That reminder of your problem takes a toll on how you see yourself.
What to Do About Mild Hearing Loss?
The first step is to see a doctor. Hearing loss is complex. An ear exam might show the problem isn’t with the mechanisms of the ear but due to a wax blockage or some other fixable condition. Hearing loss can also be a sign of a chronic medical issue such as diabetes or high blood pressure. For some, mild hearing loss is the first indication of those severe conditions.
The next step is to get a professional hearing test. Even if your mild hearing loss is resolved, a hearing test at this stage works as a baseline for future exams. In five years, you can have another test to see if there really is a decline. That will give you a chance to take steps to prevent further escalation of your hearing loss if possible.
So, should you be concerned about the mild hearing loss? In a word, yes, any loss of hearing is significant. It can indicate a medical problem and, eventually, change the quality of your life.