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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 daily because of their hearing.
Since there are five 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 five common complaints that I have heard from my patients when they come in to see me.
The Maladies of Hearing; Common Hearing Complaints
Every time someone new enters our Hearing Excellence clinic, I always ask them what their main hearing issue is or if the problem is 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 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 symptom 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, I find that 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 (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 can 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 is a specific category of complaints about those suffering from a particularly common hearing issue. These special types of hearing complaints will be discussed in part two of the maladies of hearing series.
When I talk to my patients about the specific hearing issues they have, they may mention the common complaints of not being able to hear in certain situations or hearing certain people.
But every so often, I get a completely different set of complaints that, although they are also very common, are very different from the issues I described in part one of this series.
What makes these problems different is the fact that it is not perceived as a lack of hearing.
These voiced symptoms don’t appear to be a by-product of hearing loss. To them, it seems to be hearing-related, but almost as if the patient’s hearing is overstimulated.
These two issues are as follows in no particular order:
“I can’t stand loud sounds”
Once in a while. I will have a patient come in and report that the main hearing issue is the loudness of sounds.
“Every time I hear construction outside, I just can’t stand the noise” or “There are times when I have to turn the television or music down because the sounds are a nuisance.”
Within the hearing clinic, there is a loudness test that may be conducted to uncover whether the patient is overly sensitive to loud sounds when compared to the normal hearing listener.
Solutions for what we refer to as abnormal loudness sensitivity can vary from using hearing protectors when sounds reach a dangerous hearing level or the use of acoustically filtered devices that only reduce certain bothersome sounds while still being able to hear.
To find the solution that is right for you, it is advisable to consult a trusted hearing healthcare professional.
“There’s a ringing or buzzing in my ear”
Very often I find patients reporting a ringing or buzzing sensation in one or both ears “I hear a noise in my ear, a constant hum, especially when it’s quiet.
“There’s a buzzing sound that seems to be coming from my ear and it gets in the way when I’m trying to listen to others”.
This sensation, otherwise known as tinnitus, is a type of internal noise perceived by the individual and is a very common issue directly associated with hearing loss. The root cause for the majority of tinnitus cases (roughly 80%) is identified as hearing loss or hearing damage related.
In fact, for 60-90% of those cases, shortly after treating the hearing loss itself, the tinnitus symptoms are reported to have been reduced if not eliminated.
So, although, the sensation of tinnitus may not be identified as hearing difficulty, the key to the solution lies in treating the hearing loss and re-stimulating the auditory nerve.
Again, to identify which solution is right for you, we advise you to consult with a hearing healthcare professional that offers specialized services for tinnitus-related symptoms.
Maybe your specific hearing complaint or the hearing malady of someone you know wasn’t mentioned in this blog.
But there just might be a solution to the problem that you weren’t aware of before. One way of finding out is by visiting a hearing clinic dedicated to providing client-centered care.