Hearing loss and tinnitus are treatable conditions, but finding the right treatment can be tricky. Hiding from these conditions, or denying them, doesn’t help the situation. In fact, could make the negative consequences worse.
Hearing Loss in Adults
Permanent hearing loss often develops so gradually that, early on, it is more obvious to friends and family than to the person with hearing loss. If you or someone close to you is concerned about your hearing, the best thing you can do is get it checked out right away by a licensed audiologist. Studies have shown that 90% of permanent hearing loss in adults does not require, nor is helped by, prescription drugs or surgery. The 10% of hearing loss in adults that is medically-treatable is identified by the special tests the audiologist performs and interprets. If you have a hearing loss that is medically-treatable, the audiologist will make the appropriate referral to another clinician.
Undetected and untreated hearing loss in adults has been linked to anxiety and depression and cognitive decline (like dementia). It interferes with work and social life, and can lead to loss of employment and social isolation. However, adults who have a successful treatment partnership with their audiologist live much more active lives and have better connections with friends and families (a British study even showed adults who use hearing aids have a more active love life!).
Hearing Loss in Children
Childhood hearing loss may be from conditions that are temporary, such as ear infections, or may be permanent, like hearing loss from certain medical conditions or genetics. If you have any questions about how well your child hears, have his or her hearing tested by a licensed audiologist (preferably a board certified audiologist with a specialty in pediatric audiology). If a hearing loss is identified, the audiologist will coordinate referral to an appropriate physician for further medical evaluation, in conjunction with audiological treatment.
Undetected and untreated hearing loss in children is known to cause delays in speech and language development, trouble with learning to read and write, trouble with advanced math, and trouble making friends. Even “minimal” hearing loss has been shown to cause children to have to repeat grades much more often than peers with normal hearing. When audiological and developmental interventions are started quickly and are done well, children with hearing loss have an excellent chance of doing as well in school as their normal-hearing classmates (educationally and socially).
What does hearing loss sound like?
It is nearly impossible to know what it sounds like to have a hearing loss, since hearing loss is a lot more complex than sticking your fingers in your ears.
Play this sound and adjust the noise so it’s about the same level as someone talking in a normal voice.
Once you set it, don’t change the volume control for these sound demos below:
Here are some examples of music and sentences with different types and degrees of hearing loss:
Here is what mild to moderate sensorineural hearing loss sounds like:
Here's that same sentence for a person with normal hearing:
What about tinnitus with hearing loss?
Here is an example of listening to music after sustaining significant noise-induced hearing loss. There's also some tinnitus in this demonstration, which is very common when the hearing loss is caused by loud sounds:
Here is that same music example, but through ears with pristine hearing: