Do you feel like your missing out on important details when you are talking with friends? Do coworkers look at you expectantly during a conversation but you’re not sure why? Are family members getting frustrated with you or accusing you of not paying attention?
You may be dealing with some form of hearing loss. Many doctors and hearing professionals with new patients have the same conversation again and again. I can hear things, but I don’t understand them. Does this mean I’m losing my hearing?
While your ears work to collect the sounds you hear, your brain must filter through the jumble of sounds and figure out which are words that are pertinent to the conversation you’re trying to be involved in. Hearing loss has several different levels from mild to profound.
Many older people have some degree of hearing loss, often between the mild and the moderate ranges. This often makes it difficult to hear higher-pitched tones. This can make it difficult to comprehend the conversation taking place around you.
Having your hearing tested can give you a baseline to start with, which will be potted on an audiogram. For individuals with hearing loss of high frequencies, it’s considered a “sloping” loss. This means that you can hear tones at lower pitches, such as vowels (A, E, I, O & U), but higher frequencies aren’t discernable until they reach a louder volume.
Sounds below 1000Hz are considered low frequency, while sounds above 1000Hz are high frequency. This may be part of the reason you feel like you can hear but can’t understand. The sounds that certain consonants make, such as F, K, P, S, SH, and TH as well as several others are high pitched.
While an individual with hearing loss can likely hear the vowel sounds, these consonants of higher frequency are very difficult to pick up. Without them, the sounds they do pick up don’t make a lot of sense.
Without the consonant sounds, words like “parrot” and “ferret” or “do” and “to” or “rock” and “block” can be difficult to determine. When you begin to notice that conversations are becoming difficult, or that you just don’t seem to be able to track everything a speaker is saying, consider visiting a hearing professional for testing.
You may notice that talking with an individual in a quiet setting is a bit difficult, but then it seems almost hopeless to follow others when there is background noise present. Outings such as at a restaurant, a sporting event, or even parent/teacher conferences for your child can bring about overwhelming feelings of frustration and hopelessness.
For those who have chosen not to seek treatment for their hearing loss, these situations and their lack of ability to control them often result in less and less socialization. This is due to the sheer frustration they feel when they can’t understand what those around them are saying. People choose to interact less with others, and often stop going to events they previously enjoyed.
This can lead to symptoms of depression, anxiety, and fear, not to mention the anger felt towards others who don’t seem to understand. Age related hearing loss has been linked to higher mortality rates due to the fact that older people who choose to stay home are prime candidates for dementia. Issues with obesity, arthritis, and overall health due to not wanting to leave the security of their home are prevalent in older individuals who live with hearing loss.
Here are just a few signs that you may be dealing with high-frequency hearing loss:
- Difficulty following conversations of those around you
- Extreme difficulty following conversations in a noisy environment such as a conference room or restaurant
- Talking on the phone becomes harder when you can’t understand the other speaker
- Watching TV without the closed caption turned makes it hard to follow the flow even with the volume turned up
- High pitched voices of young children and females are difficult to hear
- Music is no longer enjoyable due to its distorted sounds even at a higher volume
- Listening fatigue or overwhelming feelings of exhaustion from attempts to listen and understand a conversation
There are other situations that can be explored if you’ve taken a hearing test and passed it but still don’t feel like your hearing is optimal. There is no reason to settle for less than functional hearing with all the options technology has available to us these days.
There are other possibilities that contribute to what appears to be hearing loss if a qualified hearing healthcare professional has given your ears the green light. The auditory nerve, or brain, might be having trouble processing sounds or other sensory input. This results in symptoms that are in line with hearing loss but stem from a different source.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD and ADHD)
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), or its close relative, Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder (ADHD) are known for making things difficult to understand. The brain struggles to process all the input that the sensory system is trying to take in. This includes noise as well as visual and physical stimulant input.
When living with undiagnosed ADD or ADHD, one may feel that they can’t hear well, while its actually a situation where the brain just cannot process all that it’s attempting to take in. The individual may feel that they’re having difficulty following conversations, especially if it’s in a busy or noisy environment.
Auditory Processing Disorders (APD)
Auditory Processing Disorders are more a case of hearing but not being able to understand exactly what you’re hearing. This is a result of the auditory process, or nervous system having difficulty understanding the sounds that the ears are hearing. While it may seem like the ears are not working properly, it actually results within the brain. A diagnosis is often made in children but has also been made in adults as well.
No matter which situation you’re dealing with, hearing aids might help someone with ADD, ADHD, or APD by allowing them to focus on the conversations going on around them. It will give the person the ability to have a specific voice amplified so that they can focus better on a specific speaker instead of the rest of the conversations happening nearby.