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Do You Have Trouble Hearing Clearly—But Are Not Sure If You Have Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss may seem like a black and white issue—either you have hearing loss or you have normal hearing. You would think hearing loss would be fairly easy to self-diagnose, too, since you would notice when you cannot hear properly. However, there are some gray, in-between areas when it comes to hearing loss. You might feel that you do not have hearing loss because you can hear, yet you cannot hear clearly. That’s exactly what this article will discuss.

You Can Hear, But Not Clearly
So, what does it mean if you can hear, but not clearly? Another common way this is described is that you can hear a conversation, but you have difficulty understanding what is said. In many cases, this is a sign of high-frequency hearing loss. This means that you can hear and understand low-pitched sounds, but you have difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds.

High-frequency hearing loss can make it challenging to understand speech because consonant sounds (like Th, Sh, F, S, P, K, and V) are high-pitched. Since vowel sounds (A, E, I, O, and U) are low-pitched, you can probably hear the vowels but not the consonants. This combination means you will know that someone is speaking and you might be able to make out part of it, but because you cannot hear all of the consonant sounds, you may have difficulty understanding what is being said.

High-frequency hearing loss also makes it more difficult to hear high-pitched voices, especially those of women and children. In addition, excessive background noise can make it even more challenging to understand speech if you have high-frequency hearing loss. Here are a few more common signs of high-frequency hearing loss:

  • You struggle to follow conversations
  • You often feel like people are mumbling
  • You have difficulty understanding speech on television, even if you turn up the volume
  • You do not enjoy music because it sounds distorted, especially at higher volumes
  • You often mishear women’s and children’s voices
  • You struggle to understand speech on the phone
  • You find yourself giving inappropriate answers to questions or missing the punchline of jokes
  • Your family members and friends feel like you aren’t listening to them
  • Your spouse or family members accuse you of having “selective hearing”

If you recognize these symptoms, it’s time to have your hearing checked by a hearing professional. They will be able to diagnose any hearing loss, including high-frequency hearing loss, and provide you with the solutions you need.

You Pass a Hearing Test But Still Can’t Hear Properly
In most cases, a professional hearing test will help detect and diagnose any hearing loss. Believe it or not, however, there are times when you can pass a hearing test and be told that you have normal hearing, yet you still feel that you cannot hear properly. There are a few reasons this might happen:

  • Hidden Hearing Loss
    Hidden hearing loss is hearing loss that is not detectable with standard hearing tests. This is because standard hearing loss focuses on the ears, while hidden hearing loss is due to an issue in the brain.
  • Auditory Processing Disorders (APD)
    If you can hear sounds but have difficulty understanding, you may have an auditory processing disorder. This is caused by the nervous system struggling to interpret sound coming in from the ears.
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
    Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD) can make it difficult to understand sound as well. This is because the brain struggles to keep up with all of the sensory input it experiences, especially noise. It is also possible to have both ADD or autism and an auditory processing disorder.

If you feel like you have difficulty hearing or understanding sounds, do not hesitate to contact your hearing care professional. We are here to assist you and provide the personalized care you need.

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Hearing Loss Can Change You, But Did You Know It Can Change Your Brain?

Hearing loss can bring a lot of change to your life. Of course, there’s the major change of not being able to hear all of the sounds that you once did. Untreated hearing loss can also alter your relationships with your spouse, family, friends, and coworkers, as you can no longer hear and understand conversations clearly. You may often ask people to repeat themselves or talk louder, which can lead to frustration on both sides. You might even find yourself avoiding social situations, especially in loud settings, to avoid problems with hearing and understanding conversation. You may not be able to enjoy sounds you once did, like music, TV, and nature sounds. If you decide to treat your hearing loss and wear hearing aids, that is a change too.

All of these changes are real and can create shifts in your life. However, did you know that hearing loss can also change your brain? Recent research, conducted over several years by Johns Hopkins University, The Ohio State University, and other institutions, has revealed that hearing loss causes changes to your brain that have been linked to cognitive decline and even dementia.

The greatest takeaway message from this research is that if you believe you may be experiencing hearing loss, treat your hearing loss! Getting a hearing test is painless and usually takes half an hour or less. From this hearing test, your hearing professional will be able to diagnose any hearing loss and present you with options to treat your hearing loss. Hearing aids are a common and effective way to treat hearing loss. In fact, studies have shown that treating hearing loss by wearing hearing aids reduces memory loss and is associated with a delayed diagnosis of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It is not clear yet whether using hearing aids can completely prevent the brain changes that are linked to memory loss and cognitive decline, but it can slow this process.

Stanford University’s clinical instructor of otolaryngology, Yona Vaisbuch, MD, explained in the 2018 Stanford Medicine publication Listening that, “With time, those brain changes will not be reversible. That’s why we need to treat hearing loss as soon as possible.” Likewise, Dr. Frank Lin of Johns Hopkins recommends treating hearing loss “sooner rather than later…before these brain structural changes take place.” As noted by Dr. Vaisbuch, the brain changes that occur due to untreated hearing loss can become permanent. At that point, just beginning to wear hearing aids may be too little, too late when it comes to brain structure and cognitive decline.

Of course, simply having your hearing tested and getting hearing aids is not enough if you do not actually use your hearing aids! Wearing your hearing aids all day, every day is the best way to get used to them and enjoy their benefits. If you feel something is wrong with your hearing aids—for example, if they are uncomfortable or if the settings need to be adjusted—be sure to reach out to your hearing aid professional.

If you believe that you might have hearing loss, or if you want to learn more about how treating hearing loss can prevent changes to your brain, we invite you to contact our hearing practice today. We are eager to speak with you!