Hearing loss has a tendency to creep up on you. Most people are unaware that they have any kind of problem until they have an advanced condition or a loved one insists on a hearing test. Early detection of hearing loss allows me a broader range of treatment options and resources to help prevent additional damage. As a part of my commitment to providing Northern Alabama with the best possible hearing healthcare, I have put together some common early signs of hearing loss to help you decide if you need a hearing test.

Frequently Asking Others to Repeat What They Said

If “what did you say?” is a common statement, especially in a busy restaurant or a crowded room, it could be an early sign of hearing loss. Difficulty hearing conversations, especially when it comes to understanding women or children, who speak at higher frequencies, is a very common hearing loss indicator. Unfortunately, the habit of asking others to repeat themselves becomes such a regular part of conversations that most people don’t recognize its frequency and have to rely on family and friends to point it out.

Frustration with Phone Conversations

If you hate communicating with others over the phone, it could mean that you are having trouble hearing them. We use a lot of visual cues when speaking face to face, but those cues all disappear when we use the phone. Eliminating the visual element of conversation forces us to rely only on sound alone, making phone conversations frustrating.

A World Full of Mumblers

It is true that not all people enunciate clearly, but the majority of people do. If it seems as though everyone around you is mumbling, it could be an early sign of hearing loss. Early hearing loss issues include an increased difficulty identifying consonants in words, making it difficult to sort out one vowel-loaded word from another. People who talk fast add to this problem exponentially.

Remote Control Dependency

He who holds the remote control holds all power. Although demanding and abusing the power of the remote control is not always an indicator of hearing loss, if you have developed a dependency on the TV remote, especially to turn up the volume, it could be an indicator of impaired hearing. Turning up the volume on the radio, cell phone, and other audio-related electronics as well as the TV are good indicators of hearing loss, especially if loved ones are complaining about it.

Headaches and Fatigue

Frequent headaches and fatigue are common symptoms to a variety of health conditions, but they can also help identify hearing loss. If engaging others in conversation is a regular part of your work or daily activities, then headaches and fatigue could mean that you are struggling with your hearing. Increased straining to keep up with the conversations around you can cause stress, fatigue, and headaches as you concentrate on filling in the blanks you are not hearing.

Ongoing Ringing or Hissing

When my patients describe tinnitus, they use words such as ringing, buzzing, whooshing, or hissing. Regardless of how you describe it, if the sound is ongoing and never seems to disappear, you could be suffering from a side effect known as tinnitus. Tinnitus causes you to hear sounds that really don’t exist and is a common symptom related to damage from loud noise exposure or age deterioration.

How Can a Hearing Test Help?

Any, several, or all of the scenarios listed above should motivate you to see an audiologist for a formal hearing test. Through a diagnostic evaluation, I can determine the type, nature, and degree of your hearing loss. I will assess your hearing acuity and ability to understand speech and sounds at different volume levels and in various simulated environments. Hearing tests are neither painful nor invasive and they allow me to provide you with the specific treatment you need.

Contact us for additional information concerning the identification of hearing loss in yourself or a loved one, or set up an appointment in either of Alabama Hearing’s Huntsville or Madison County clinics.

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Dr. Jan Liles

Dr. Liles earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Montevallo and her master’s degree from the University of Alabama. From 1991 to 2001, she worked with two ENT medical practices and initiated one of the first newborn hearing screening programs in the state. In 2002, she was awarded a doctorate in audiology from the University of Florida. Dr. Liles and her longtime best friend, Dr. Sheehy, founded Alabama Hearing Associates in January 2002.
    Basic Hearing Test

    A basic hearing test begins with an air conduction test. You will be seated in a soundproof booth and single-use, foam earphones will be inserted into your ear canals. The Audiologist will ask you to push a button or raise your hand when you barely hear a series of beeps (tones) presented at various frequencies (pitches) to obtain your air conduction thresholds.

    To determine whether your hearing loss is a conductive (mechanical) loss, sensorineural (permanent) loss or combination of the two, we perform a bone conduction test.  

    For this test, a head band is place on the bone behind one of the ears to obtain your bone conduction thresholds. This process provides a different form of sound transmission using vibration, which bypasses the eardrum and the middle ear bones and directly stimulates the auditory nerve. When you hear the beeps/tones, you will push a button or raise your hand.

    If bone conduction thresholds are better than air conduction thresholds (through the foam inserts), you have a conductive hearing loss. This suggests a problem with the mechanical structures (moving parts) of the ears.

    Conductive hearing loss is often a medically treatable condition for which we will provide you with a referral to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) physician. However, if bone and air conduction thresholds match, it indicates a sensorineural hearing loss (permanent), and the treatment will likely involve hearing aids.



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