Hearing Loss: Signs and Symptoms

Apr 13, 2016

Hearing Loss: Signs and Symptoms

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As it turns out, hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States. Nearly 38 million Americans over the age of 18 have some sort of hearing issue. About 25 percent of adults aged 65 to 74, and half of American adults older than 75 reports disabling hearing loss. Whether hearing loss is caused by age, genetics, or illness, losing one’s hearing can drastically impact relationships and an individual’s quality of life. There are two different types of hearing loss, and your senior could have one or both of them.

Fortunately, if the early stages of hearing loss can be identified, hearing loss treatment options may be available to them. To best help a loved one, watch out for the symptoms of hearing loss and get a hearing examination if hearing loss is suspected.

Symptoms of Hearing Loss

Early Stages

  • Having trouble hearing high-pitched sounds
  • Not hearing children’s voices
  • Difficulty deciphering “S” and “F” sounds

Later Stages

  • Trouble understanding phone conversations
  • Difficulty hearing over background noises
  • Trouble following a conversation with multiple people
  • Asking others to repeat themselves
  • Misunderstanding what others are saying
  • Reading lips frequently
  • Experiencing a hissing noise in the ears

Levels of Hearing Loss

Variations of hearing loss are characterized by degrees: mild, moderate, severe, and profound.

  • Mild: Hearing is relatively okay with one-on-one conversations, but hearing becomes difficult with background noise or other distracting sounds.
  • Moderate: Others are frequently being asked to repeat themselves, and it’s difficult to hear on electronic devices like telephones or the television.
  • Severe: It is nearly impossible to hear conversations clearly. By the severe stage of hearing loss, a hearing aid may be worn on a regular basis.
  • Profound: The only way others can be heard is if they are speaking extremely loud, or a hearing aid is being used. Those with profound hearing loss are nearly deaf.

4 Tests to Detect Hearing Loss

If it is suspected that a loved one is losing their hearing, or whether these symptoms are personally relatable, do not hesitate to get a hearing exam. An otolaryngologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases of the ear; however, many family doctors can also perform various degrees of hearing analysis.

1. Physical Exam

Using an otoscope, a doctor will look in the ear for possible wax buildup, infection, or inflammation. The goal of this checkup is to look for any structural problems that may be the cause of hearing loss.

2. Screening Tests

A screening test is similar to an eye exam, except the ears are covered instead of the eyes. A doctor will give instructions to cover one ear at a time while playing sounds to monitor how the patient responds to noise.

3. Tuning Fork Tests

Also used to tune instruments, a tuning fork can also be used to conduct a hearing test. How this works is a doctor strikes the instrument and observes how the ear reacts. The ear’s reaction from the tuning fork vibrations can reveal whether hearing loss is caused by damage to the eardrum, damage to the sensor nerves, or a combination of both.

4. Audiometer Tests

During this test, headphones will be worn while an audiologist presents a range of sounds and tones. The sound will be directed into one ear at a time, and the patient will indicate the ear in which the sound was heard.

If there are evident symptoms of hearing loss, seek a professional opinion. If one is suffering from hearing loss, the next step is to look into treatment and various listening devices.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long does a hearing test take?

It depends on the doctor, but routine hearing tests typically take about 20-30 minutes. This involves an interview, examination, which determines what type of hearing loss you or your loved one has, and recommendations for treatment options. Most times, the recommended treatment option is a hearing aid.

The New York Hearing Doctors is a great resource that outlines the whole hearing test process from start to finish. Not only will it hep you to prepare, but it will also provide you with a better understanding of the test so you will know what to expect.

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I'm interested in getting hearing aids, but I'm worried about the cost. Does Medicaid or Medicare cover the cost of hearing aids?

Generally speaking, no Medicare and Medicaid do not cover the cost of hearing aids, but each state is different. In some cases, Medicare Part or Medicaid may cover certain deductibles or co-payments associated with hearing diagnostic tests. However, we recommend contacting your state Medicare or Medicaid agency to see if they can provide discounts or information regarding hearing aids.

The Hearing Loss Association of America also has several resources for learning about how you can receive financial assistance when it comes to paying for your hearing health

See All Answers »

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