It is amazing how well we can get by with just a little function in many of our body organs. For instance, my husband had only 10% function in his kidney and was still alive, and I have just one kidney. We have a lot of built in redundancy throughout our bodies…two eyes, two hands, two legs, two kidneys and of course two ears. While losing any of these organs/appendages is devastating we can still manage and adapt with just one functioning.
Most often when someone starts to go deaf they find only one ear works well while the other fades. Somehow they still manage extremely well. They only have a Mild Hearing loss and work around this loss to maintain normal function in work and relationships.
But the truth is, it is a Mild Hearing loss and not managing it will have ramifications into the future. A Mild Hearing loss is far more common than more severe loss yet most people don’t seek treatment.
The symptoms of a mild hearing loss are basically:
- Usually the loss falls between 26 and 45 decibels. This volume is in the speech range from a whisper to normal speech and means volume needs to be increased in order to hear it.
- Experience some difficulty in understanding speech when there is background noise.
- Speech in the distance is difficult to undertand (ie a conference, meeting)
- The television volume you may be ok, but the speech is not always clear.
- Find it more difficult to understand higher pitched voices; those of children and women.
- One ear hears better than the other.
- Experiencing tinnitus – especially in the bad ear.
What you should do about it
I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to seek expert advice. First of all go to your GP. Get a full physical assessment to rule out any kind of disease or even something as simple as wax build up. Then get a referral to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. These professionals should get you to have x’rays and perform hearing tests. The hearing tests will be simple tone tests to see if you have lost the ability to hear any frequencies. They will check bone conduction of sound which will help them to determine if the problem is in your cochlea or in the outer or middle ear. In addition they should check understanding because hearing the sound is not enough…you need to understand the speech or sound you are hearing.
Once all the tests are performed and you have a clean bill of health then you know the next steps to take.
While it may seem you are coping ok, it is extremely important to start wearing a hearing aid. The extra sound will help you in many situations to hear better, but even more important, even if a hearing aid doesn’t seem to give much benefit, it does because the stimulation keeps your hearing mechanism active and healthy. An open fit hearing aid will allow what natural sound you still have to reach your inner ear while amplifying frequencies you have trouble hearing.
It is important to manage a mild hearing loss to ensure good hearing health into the future. Generally, hearing loss can never be restored so look after what you have for as long as you have it.