If you’re already asking if you need hearing aids, or if hearing aids will help you, then you have probably already started to notice some level of hearing loss. Whether you’re asking this question for yourself, or if you are wanting to know if hearing aids would benefit a friend or loved one, the answer is fortunately straight forward! Outside of our online hearing test (which is completely free) there are a couple of tell-tale signs that your hearing has suffered damage. In almost all instances, damage to your hearing causes loss of hearing to some degree and is permanent. It’s nothing to carry around fear or shame about either. Tens of millions of Americans have some level of hearing loss and lead perfectly normal lives!
Here's a quick litmus test to see if you have perceived any loss of hearing in your own life:
Turning the volume up louder than you used to
Whether in your car, in front of the TV or listening to headphones, if you have notice that you have started needing a higher volume level than you used to, it’s a pretty good indication of a loss of hearing. This is – perhaps unsurprisingly – a fairly accurate at home hearing test for two reasons. First off, most of our televisions display a numerical volume level on the screen and many people know the general level that they prefer it set to. People noticing that they’ve had to turn up their TV over time is the most prevalent answer we get to the question: “why do you think you need hearing aids?” Additionally, we often see that people’s spouses complain that the TV is too loud for them, while the other spouse complains that they can barely hear what’s going on.
Having trouble understanding speech (especially in a crowded/noisy environment)
This one can be a little more difficult to self-diagnose. Where the volume of a TV is fairly objective (and noticeable), the volume of another person talking can vary from speaker to speaker. It is often convenient for us to rationalize it in our own brain as: “that person mumbles,” or “that person just speaks softly.” You have to take an honest look at how well you are able to understand conversations. This is often easiest in a group setting. If you at a large dinner, in a work meeting, or in an auditorium or place of worship and you are struggling to understand all the dialog, look around at the other participants (or ask those around you) to see if anyone else is struggling to hear. This is a decent indication that your hearing is below that of the rest of the room. Keep in mind that your position relative to the speaker and the others in the room may play a factor in this as well. If you’re in the back row and having trouble hearing along with the others around you, you’re probably alright!
Hearing speech, but struggling to understand what was said (especially if you cannot see the face of the speaker)
It is very common for hearing to be lost at only specific pitches or frequencies. To oversimplify this a bit, it is easy to think of sounds as low mid and high pitched. To put it in musical terms, low-pitch would be the bass line, mid-pitch would be a guitar and high-pitch would be a flute. It is common to have hearing loss in the range that we hear high-pitched noise. To get off music and come back to speech, most vowel sounds are in the lower pitch areas. Noises like “ah, oh, ooo” are mostly lower pitched whereas many consonant sounds are in a higher pitch area. Sounds such as “sh, th, ff” can be much harder for a person with hearing loss in the high pitch areas to hear. While you may be able to HEAR that the person is talking, you may not be able to UNDERSTAND what the person is saying. These higher pitch consonant sounds are crucial for the clarity of speech and a hearing loss in a specific range can manifest as the incorrect assumption that the speaker is mumbling. Being able to see the face of the speaker and watching the way their mouth/face forms sounds can very easily let you brain “fill in the gaps” of what your ears are hearing and actually cause you to ignore a potential loss of hearing. For many of us, we can absolutely tell a difference in our ability to understand a speaker when we are looking at their face, versus looking away from them.
Lucky for all of us, the FDA in the United States has now determined that Americans with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss can purchase OTC (over-the-counter) hearing aids without the need of a medical prescription. If you’ve experienced anything like what we’ve discussed above, you’re a prime candidate for a pair of OTC hearing aids. If you’re still on the fence or not quite sure if you have hearing loss, feel free to take our online hearing test!