Most hearing loss happens so gradually that it can go unnoticed for several years. In fact, people around you are likely to notice it before you. As the hearing loss worsens, the sounds necessary to understand speech begin to get affected. Soft high frequencies, such as a bird chirping, are no longer audible and it becomes increasingly difficult to reliably distinguish one sound from another. There is a natural tendency to think that others are not speaking clearly whereas the actual reason is that your hearing has got impaired. It is only when people get their ears tested that they realize how much of hearing damage has occurred over the years.

Symptoms of hearing loss

  • Asking people around you or on telephone to repeat themselves more often than usual
  • Having the impression that everyone mumbles when they are actually talking normally
  • Misinterpreting what others are saying
  • Finding it a hard time hearing women or children
  • Straining oneself in trying to listen to conversations
  • Turning on the TV volume louder than before
  • Facing difficulty in hearing at public gatherings such as a concert hall where sound sources are far away
  • Common types of hearing loss

    Conductive hearing loss:

    This hearing loss is caused by any problem in the outer or middle ear that interferes with the transmission of sound waves to the inner ear. These could be factors such as infections in the outer ear, excessive earwax, holes in the eardrum, any stiffening or disruption to the three middle ear bones or simply, genetics. Conductive hearing loss can often be corrected or improved with medical intervention and when that is not possible, hearing aids can help.

    Sensorineural hearing loss:

    This form of hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or by damage to the nerve pathway from the inner ear to the brain. This is mainly caused by deterioration of the hair cells in the cochlea and often occurs as a natural part of growing old. About 90% of all hearing losses are of the sensorineural type. This can be rarely helped medically but can be treated through hearing aids.

    Precautions to be taken

    Extended exposure to loud noise can damage the tiny hair cells in the inner ear and result in a noise-induced hearing loss. In order to minimize the risk of acquiring such a hearing loss, it is advisable to follow these simple guidelines:

  • Wear hearing protection (e.g. proper noise reducing headphones) in noisy places (construction sites, shooting range, etc.)
  • Wear earplugs at music festivals and concerts where the noise levels can be incredibly loud
  • Reduce the amount of time you are exposed to the noise
  • Move away from the noise source
  • Lower the volume of your iPod or your hi-fi system and TV when listening with headphones

  • If you have pain in your ears after leaving a noisy area or you hear ringing or buzzing in your ears immediately after exposure to noise, consider this as a warning sign that the sounds are too loud and get your ears thoroughly evaluated.