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Am Losing My Hearing? Signs of Hearing Loss

You might think that it would be easy to recognize hearing loss but, because onset is often gradual, you could be missing the signs. Have you found yourself asking someone to slow down, stop mumbling, or enunciate? Is it difficult to follow a conversation when you are in a busy room? These can be signs of hearing loss.

Without even knowing it we often rely on visual clues when talking with someone. Do you have a hard time understanding someone who is not facing you such as having a conversation with someone seated behind you in a car or talking to you from another room? Trying to “fill in the blanks” and decipher what someone is saying can also be mentally exhausting, leading to avoiding conversations and social interactions altogether.

Signs of Hearing Loss

  • Frequently asking someone to repeat themselves or enunciate
  • Difficulty hearing in a busy room or when a TV is on
  • Unable to understand someone who is not facing you
  • Tinnitus or “Ringing in The Ears”
  • Difficulty hearing someone on the phone

Disease Related Hearing Loss

Most people expect some degree of hearing loss as they get older, but sometimes hearing loss can be more than “old age.” It can be related to disease, other underlying conditions, or even a tumor, so it is important to make a hearing checkup a regular part of your overall healthcare routine. Some conditions that can impact hearing or comprehension include:

  • Otosclerosis is an abnormal growth of the small bones of the inner ear. It can be treated through surgery or, in some cases, the use of a properly-fitted hearing aid.
  • Ménière’s Disease is a condition that can cause vertigo, tinnitus, and eventually hearing loss.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia can initially appear to be a hearing problem, as those with the disease often have difficulty understanding and communicating. Although the cause is unknown, recent studies have also shown that people with hearing loss have higher rates of dementia.
  • Parkinson’s Disease is connected to a lack of dopamine and research has suggested that a lack of dopamine, combined with age, can damage the cochlea and cause hearing loss.
  • Stroke occurs when blood flow is cut off to a region of the brain, depriving oxygen, and killing cells. Sudden hearing loss caused by vascular occlusion can sometimes precede a stroke.

Other disease-related causes for hearing loss include viral and bacterial infections, ruptured ear membranes, tumors, and autoimmune diseases.

Medication-Induced Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can also be the result of medication, including antibiotics, diuretics, and even aspirin. Medications that are known to affect hearing include:

  • Antidepressants such as SSRIs, Prozac, Zoloft, and others
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Diuretics used for high blood pressure and heart disease
  • Antibiotics in the Aminoglycosides family
  • Quinine often found in muscle relaxants
  • NSAIDs, including naproxen and ibuprofen

While hearing loss may initially be seen as an inconvenience, it is important to visit your audiologist and make a hearing checkup part of your regular health care plan. The Hearing Center at Mid-Maryland ENT offers a full range of hearing services, including hearing tests, consultations with professional audiologists, and a wide selection of affordable hearing aids. You can learn more about our services by visiting the Hearing Center.