5 WARNING SIGNS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HEARING LOSS
Written by Asha Kalsi
Our ability to hear is something we can easily take for granted, especially when we’re jamming to music through headphones or enjoying the energetic atmosphere of a concert or club. However, hearing loss is a topic that deserves our attention. It is crucial to prioritise the health of our ears if we want to continue enjoying these experiences well into the future. But how do we know when we need to worry? And what can we do to keep our hearing in its best condition?
Hearing Loss is Not Always Obvious.
Hearing loss tends to be a gradual process and many of us may not notice right away when our hearing starts to decline. The early signs can be subtle and easily overlooked. However, if you're experiencing any of the following, it's crucial to act now to protect your hearing.
- Needing to turn up your TV or music higher than those around you.
- Trouble understanding words in a crowded place, on the phone, or when there's background noise.
- Feeling tired or stressed after having to concentrate during a conversation.
- Trouble hearing certain letters, such as 'S' or 'T' sounds, which is also known as vocal sibilance.
- Experiencing ringing or buzzing in your ears, known as tinnitus.
The Root of the Issue: What Causes Hearing Loss?
When it comes to hearing loss, there are three main culprits to watch out for:
- Earwax Buildup: Luckily, when it comes to hearing loss, excessive earwax is not a major cause for concern. However, it can still have an impact on our ability to hear properly if it starts to build up in the ear canal. If that happens, it can create a physical blockage that hinders sound from reaching the eardrum effectively. There are some telltale signs to look out for if you suspect earwax buildup is affecting your hearing. You may feel a sense of fullness in your ear, experience a dull ache or itchiness, and notice a more prominent smell accompanied by an increased amount of earwax. The good thing is that hearing loss caused by excessive earwax is reversible. Seeking professional assistance from a healthcare provider or an ear specialist can help in safely removing the earwax blockage and restoring your hearing to normal.
- Loud Noise: Excessive exposure to loud noise, whether we’re working in a loud environment, enjoying a live sports event, or blasting music through our headphones, can harm the delicate hairs inside our inner ear. These hairs act as tiny sensors that sit inside the cochlea and pick up sound to be sent to the brain. When hearing loss occurs, people notice that it’s the higher frequencies that get lost first because they are picked up by the more vulnerable hairs situated closest to the entrance of the ear. Unfortunately, once these hairs are damaged, it's like trampling grass—they don't grow back, leading to permanent hearing loss. It's a strong reminder of why it's crucial to take preventative measures so hearing loss doesn’t become a problem in the future.
- Injury: A wide range of physical injuries can have a significant impact on our hearing. From severe incidents like brain injuries or skull fractures to more minor mishaps like changes in air pressure or exposing ourselves to sharp, loud noises—our ears are vulnerable. Even something as seemingly innocent as poking our ears with a cotton swab could lead to a perforated or burst eardrum. When a burst eardrum occurs, you may notice frequent ear infections, sharp pains, and fluid oozing from the ear. The good news is that in many cases, a burst eardrum can heal within about two months. However, it's always wise to consult your GP for proper monitoring and to ensure it is healing well without needing any additional treatment.
In addition to these factors, age, infections, and certain medications can also contribute to hearing loss. If you suspect that your medications are affecting your hearing, it is essential to consult your GP for further evaluation.
Understanding the underlying causes of hearing loss is the first step towards prevention. By proactively taking care of our ears and addressing potential risks, we can maintain our hearing to enjoy for years to come.