Common Hearing Complaints (Part One)

Dear Reader, this blog is the first segment of a two-part series examining universal complaints made by those experiencing hearing-related issues. It has been written in the hopes of voicing common experiences of those who struggle with communication on a daily basis because of their hearing. Due to the fact that there are three very general complaints most commonly associated with hearing loss and two other complaints related to a very specific hearing issue, I have decided to write on this topic in two parts. This blog post looks at the first three common complaints that I have heard from my patients when they come in to see me.

The Maladies of Hearing; Common Hearing Complaints (Part One):

Every time someone new enters our Hearing Excellence clinic, I always ask them what their main hearing issue is or if the problem is actually ear related. I get many different answers to my question. However, there are always some answers that are mentioned the most often. I’ll be going into detail with these answers, but not in any particular order, as it varies from person to person.

“I can’t hear in certain situations”

The details of this answer may vary, but the underlying message is clear. “I seem to be able to hear okay in most places or situations, but I do have more trouble with…” Although the type of listening situations may differ, the commonality is that it’s not like there is a hearing problem in every listening environment or daily interaction. In fact, because of this infrequency, the hearing issue becomes something that is uncertain, or unknown to that individual. After all, how can you be sure there is an actual hearing problem when it’s only happening some of the time or only in certain instances? That is actually to be expected, as research shows that we stimulate more of our acoustic or hearing memory in some situations than others. It would make sense that some listening environments are easier because individuals rely more heavily on their acoustic memories rather than acoustic cues. These acoustic cues may be needed and missed in certain hearing situations when there is some hearing loss involved. It is often the case that not hearing in certain listening environments are symptoms manifesting from a very common hearing loss related to noise exposure coupled with aging. The two factors are very hard to tease out, although, when inquiring with your local Audiologist they may be able to go into detail based on the specific characteristics of your hearing loss.

“I can’t hear soft or high pitched voices”

Many patients report having trouble hearing soft spoken people. They may describe this in different ways; “I have trouble hearing people who mumble…” “I have trouble hearing female voices”. Often times I find that the hearing loss is perceived as more of an issue with the particular speaker rather than the hearing itself. This misconception is common because other sounds, such as background noises of fans, music, or outside environmental noises are heard just as clearly as ever. For this reason, the hearing loss itself can be more significant than what is expected by the patient. It is also because the hearing loss severity is different for different speech sounds, that it is subtle and often not noticed until the hearing loss has occurred for a longer period of time (years). Usually the best hearing treatment strategy requires a device that functions under all listening situations, is portable, and regularly provides the hearing nerve with sound stimulation so that the hearing nerve remains active.

“I can’t hear over the telephone”

There are times when a patient reports no trouble hearing except in demanding phone situations. Sometimes this complaint may be accompanied by trouble hearing the television as well or hearing certain background sounds. It is hard for the patient to pinpoint a perceived hearing loss because he or she is able to hear others in conversation with relative ease. Under these circumstances, the type of hearing solution may be tailored more towards hearing in those situations rather than a solution to hearing speech sounds. For example, an amplifier on the telephone, or a television enhancement device may be helpful. If the lifestyle demands require hearing accurately over the phone, being able to hear without closed captioning in other electronic devices, or even being able to hear outside sounds that may alert one to danger, a more comprehensive hearing treatment solution may be required.

The complaints that I have discussed above are very common and shared experiences for those suffering from a variety of different types of hearing loss. However, there are a specific category of complaints for those suffering from a particularly common hearing issue. These special type of hearing complaints will be discussed in part two of the maladies of hearing series.

Mitra Mehra
Audiologist Reg. CASLPO. M.Cl.Sc. Aud (c)

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