Listen up — lean in if you have to: Hearing loss is a big problem in the U.S., and not just for old folks anymore. In fact, one in five American teenagers has hearing loss , a recent study showed. Worried your hearing is deteriorating? Dr. Madan Kandula, an ear, nose and throat specialist in Milwaukee, Wis., has some pointers on what to listen for.
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1. You're straining to understand conversations. The world is designed for normal-hearing ears. When one’s hearing begins to slip, it takes a major effort to accomplish what used to come naturally — hear.
2. Your family complains you watch TV at a too-high volume. As hearing loss creeps in, the volume bars on TVs, radios, etc. go up, up, up. For the person with hearing loss, this allows them to boost the sound to a range that they can hear. Meanwhile, their friends, neighbors and family members are blasted away by the excessive sound.
3. You're having problems hearing on the telephone. Hearing loss usually evolves gradually. Without knowing it, those with hearing loss begin to read lips and look for non-verbal clues. These crutches disappear when someone is talking on the phone.
4. Your ears are ringing. While not always a sign of hearing loss, ringing in the ears, called tinnitus, is always something to get checked out. The most common cause for tinnitus is hearing loss. Tinnitus is a common first sign that there is something wrong with the ears.
5. You've started to avoid social interactions. It takes at least two to communicate. When communication is a struggle due to decreased hearing, the natural response by many is to avoid placing themselves in the line of fire. People with hearing loss begin to retreat into a world of isolation, so that they don’t have to face the embarrassment of not being able to communicate effectively.
6. You're having trouble hearing noise that's in the background. People with ears that don’t hear normally have to strain to pick up every morsel of sound input. While this can work well in one-on-one situations, this technique backfires when there are additional sources of sound. For those with hearing loss, restaurants, bars and parties become walls of distorted sounds instead of fun, comforting gatherings.
7. You're misunderstanding what others are saying. If your ears are causing you to miss things, your mind tries to fill in the gaps. The result can be annoying and embarrassing to the person with hearing loss as well as those trying to communicate with them.
8. You're having trouble understanding the speech of women and children. Hearing loss most commonly starts impacting the higher frequencies of speech. Women’s and children’s voices start to fade into the background. People with high frequency hearing loss tend to prefer to listen to male speakers and often complain that the women and children around them either “speak too softly” or mumble.
9. You keep asking people to repeat themselves. When you don’t hear it right the first time, it’s easy to ask for a second try. While this can work a few times, the listener and the speaker tend to get annoyed pretty quickly when every other sentence is “What did you say?” or “Can you repeat that?”
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