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What caused my hearing loss?

There is a tendency to assume that all age-related hearing loss is caused by loud noises, such as listening to loud music, working in loud environments or attending loud concerts in the past. The truth, of course, is very different.

In reality, there are multiple causes of hearing loss that affects us with age. I was curious to learn how other adults lost their hearing, so I talked to some people in to find out.

What caused my hearing loss?

Age-related hearing loss is one of the most common health conditions affecting older adults, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.  In the U.S., it is estimated that one-third of people over age 65, and half of those over 85, have some hearing loss.

The hearing loss that affects people as they age is caused by a number of factors. Prolonged exposure to loud noise is included, but this only just scratches the surface.

From a personal viewpoint, my deafness does mainly appear to have been caused by listening to loud music back in the day – before anyone told us not to.  However, my hearing was made worse after wax buildup and removal.

Read more: Who is at risk for age-related hearing loss?

Common causes of age-related hearing loss

According to The National Institute for Aging, people with hearing loss may find it hard to have conversations with friends and family, as well as have trouble understanding a doctor’s advice, responding to warnings, and hearing doorbells and alarms.

Medical News Today lists some diseases or circumstances that can cause deafness:

  • chicken pox
  • cytomegalovirus
  • mumps
  • meningitis
  • sickle cell disease
  • syphilis
  • lyme disease
  • diabetes
  • a treatment for tuberculosis (TB), streptomycin, that is believed to be a key risk factor
  • hypothyroidism
  • arthritis
  • some cancers

Considering the above list isn’t by any means exhaustive, this just shows that those who have hearing loss have no need to reproach themselves. If we are having to contend with inherited ailments and disease, not to mention volume induced loss, is it any wonder that those experiencing these disabilities are so often confused as to where they came from?

Read more: Hearing Loss

What caused your hearing loss?

To learn what caused other adults’ hearing loss, I asked members of a UK Hearing Loss Community on Facebook what caused their later onset hearing loss.

The answers, which follow in the members’ own words, just might surprise you. I know they did for me.

  • “I caught shingles, which they think damaged my left ear. Profound loss in that ear. When tested, right ear flagged up loss top. They think this could be hereditary. Severe to profound loss in right ear.” – Elaine Badger.
  • “Mine I believe is hereditary. My mother, aunts, and grandmother were hard of hearing.”
  • “I have only recently had hearing loss within the last year. I am 58, and found out that I had this disease 25 years ago. Have had four big ops to remove the cholesteatoma. The beast has returned four times. Had Combined Approach Tympanoplasty, stage 1-4. Plus mastoid surgery as this area was diseased too. I had been free from cholesteatoma for 10 years in 2016, but became very unwell with constant ear infection to left side that would not clear easily. I then had real issues with vertigo and could hardly walk for six weeks. They did an MRI scan and the disease had returned extensively, attaching itself to my balance organs and facial nerve. Removed it all in Feb 2017. The beast had eaten my hearing bones. They tried to do prosthetic TORP, but this failed. Hearing test showed that I was profoundly deaf in left ear, with 75 percent hearing in right. This was a shock really as did not imagine the damage that cholesteatoma could do.” – Gordon

Why treat age-related hearing loss?

As you can see from the examples I’ve shown here, there really is so much more to hearing loss than loud noises and bad headphone management.

“There really is so much more to hearing loss than loud noises and bad headphone management.”

This is why it’s so important to get your hearing tested if you have trouble hearing. It’s all too easy to assume that if you’ve never listened to loud music or been exposed to noise at high decibels, that hearing loss could never happen to you.

Quite simply, hearing loss can happen – and does to approximately 15% of the world’s adult population.

Read more: Why treat age-related hearing loss?

We should allow ourselves to be open to the reality that hearing loss is only the symptom presenting itself and not the cause.

Thinking of it this way may let us be more open to the way this disability affects others and how we may begin to understand hearing loss a little better.

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5 everyday hearing loss challenges made a little easier

When you have hearing loss, it is inevitable that you’ll experience challenges, but, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do to make your life easier.

There is an old saying that “knowledge is power,” and, without resorting to any other cliches, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared, especially when going into certain situations. Here are 5 hearing loss challenges that can be made easier through advocacy.

Hearing loss challenges

1. When darkness falls

Light isn’t something that comes to mind when you think about hearing issues. However, trust me, when the light fails problems are often not that far behind. You see whether you realize it or not, if you are hard of hearing, the chances are that you rely on light more than you think in your overall daily communication.

You don’t have to know sign language to seek clarification when holding a conversation with someone.

We all use body language during conversations, communication is far more than words, we not only use such things as pitch and depth, but we also focus on the face. The human face conveys what is being experienced in a person’s emotional system. When facing another person while talking, we are constantly looking for clues as to the exact meaning of their words.

Also, people who have hearing loss tend to lip read, whether they’re aware of it or not. This is why you might find yourself really looking hard at someone’s face if you’re struggling to hear them. Because of these reasons if at all possible try to avoid areas when you go out which are too dark.

If you go to the cinema explain to whoever you’re with that you need to just concentrate on the movie, but will be happy to talk when you come out after.

Avoid those romantic candlelit dinners and, instead, opt for bright enough mood lighting. This way you’ll be able to eat and talk without missing out on a large part of the communication.

“Avoid those romantic candlelit dinners and, instead, opt for bright enough mood lighting.”

2. Not being tapped on the shoulder

One of the most annoying things, and, this happens almost every day, is when a person begins speaking to you, having not got your attention first. Those of us with hearing difficulties often find it almost impossible to hear the first word or two spoken. This is because our concentration is somewhere else.

It can also be linked to our technology. For example, my hearing aids have automatic volume controls. This means that if a voice suddenly speaks they will take a short time to tune that sound in. It might be a split second to the hearing aid, but to me, it can mean one or two words missing from a sentence. I am then forced to ask them to repeat what they have just said.

This can then lead to the other person wrongly assuming that either my hearing aids are not working or that they are not speaking loud enough.

Often this scenario ends in the other person shouting when there really is no need at all. Thankfully, if the person is a friend or relative or even if they are new to you, there is something which is very easy and, also happens to be extremely effective. Having explained that your hearing aid needs a moment to enable you to tune into a conversation, simply ask that should the person want your attention at any time, to firmly tap you on the shoulder.

Shoulder tapping is very well known within the Deaf community but tends to be underused in the hearing loss community.

3. Jump scare city

When you have hearing loss sounds can easily take on different meanings and it’s all too easy to become startled.

The problem is that hearing aids are not perfect. Despite how amazing they can be, they only operate really well when you are facing a person directly. The microphones fitted inside aids will often fail to distinguish background from the foreground and, this can lead to confusion.

To make things more comfortable for yourself try to make sure that you are always seated in a corner facing out when sitting in cafe’s, coffee shops and restaurants. Nothing can spoil an evening out like jumping out of your skin every few minutes because of not being aware of where people are coming from. Also, when going into a place for the first time, take a moment or two to familiarize yourself with the overall layout of the place. Try to arrange it so that you can sit away from the bar or shop counter.

“To make things more comfortable for yourself try to make sure that you are always seated in a corner facing out when sitting in cafe’s, coffee shops and restaurants.”

By doing this you can avoid having to fight through a barrage of noise from both customers and staff. As well as coffee machines, cocktail shakers, and other miscellaneous s sounds.

Just by knowing your surroundings and the placement of both people and objects, you can make your experience so much better.

4. Public announcements

Whenever you find yourself having to use crowded public areas where passengers congregate, such as airports, train and bus stations, here is something to bear in mind, if you would like to save yourself a headache or two.

Hearing people struggle with understanding announcers coming across public address systems at the best of times, doubt that? Just stand and watch your fellow passengers expressions, as they attempt to unravel whether what has just been said might apply to them.

Save yourself the hassle and, don’t even try to struggle with announcements, instead I do one of the following things.

Be certain to check online ahead of time any and all information that will be useful for your journey.

See if you can get an app for your mobile phone. The chances are that you’ll be able to get a free app which will allow you to keep up on any and all arrivals, departures and changes.

Read more: Tips for using public transportation with hearing loss

As soon as you come in through the entrance look around and find the information desk or kiosk. If you head over to them, they’re certain to have all of the up to the minute information and you will be talking one on one.

You should also look for illuminated signboards; these will show all important relevant helpful information.

5. Caring for hearing technology

We need to all be very thankful for the amazing hearing technology which we wear day after day and, which allows us a pathway into the hearing world.

Inside that small plastic shell is housed some very high-quality sophisticated equipment. These miniature computers can be delicate and need taking good care of.

Look after your hearing aids and, they will be free to do their job perfectly.

The good news, is that looking after a hearing aid is not rocket science. As long as you do one or two things right, they practically take care of themselves.

Be certain to change your batteries on a regular basis, as these can leak and, if this happens it can damage the aid. Also, always be sure to carry spare batteries, because you never know when you might need them.

Avoid moisture and be sure to always store your aids in a dry place. You can always get a dry cup. This is used with a drying tablet which removes moisture and, will keep it perfectly dry, when not in use.

Keep aids clean, be sure to wipe off any wax which has accumulated. On the device or mould. You can use a soft toothbrush or a cotton bud, do this very gently.

If you keep these 5 things in mind, you’ll easily be able to turn potential problems into challenges you are happy to meet head-on.

Living with hearing loss is not difficult as long as you are well prepared and you do a little forward thinking and planning.

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Five Warning Signs That Your Partner Might Have Hearing Loss

The warning signs that your partner might have hearing loss are more obvious than you’d think.

Hearing loss isn’t something most people expect to encounter in their day to day lives. Because of this, it all too often goes unnoticed. I know this from personal experience. In my case, it was my wife Raine who first noticed that something was wrong. Of course it took her a good many years before she managed to persuade me that I might just have a little problem.

Challenges

The biggest challenge to overcome is one born of assumptions. It’s the old idea that hearing loss is something which happens to certain types of people – “not me.” Society by and large chooses to ignore the whole topic of deafness. Instead, the focus is on so called “normal” as the perceived status quo. If only mainstream and medical education made hearing loss a necessary subject open for discussion, things would be a lot easier. Instead, we all need to be aware of this invisible disability. We can help each other spot this often elusive challenge to day to day living.

So, how do we see the unseen? Sounds impossible, right? Not quite. We just need to look for the tell-tale signs. If someone is struggling with his or her hearing, the signs will be there.

“If someone is struggling with their hearing, the signs will be there.”

1) The Wayward Volume Control

This is an easy one to spot. When the TV volume begins to creep up past the comfortable range, it’s time to pay less attention to what’s happening on the box and more to the partner beside you. Is your partner beginning to lean in the direction that the sound is coming from?

2) I Beg Your Pardon

If you’ve begun to notice that your partner is constantly asking you to repeat what you’ve just said, you might want to consider whether it could be a hearing issue coming to the surface. Assuming you don’t mumble and that you have no problem being understood by others, this can be an indicator that your loved one is experiencing hearing difficulty. You will notice that this gets worse in crowded places such as coffee shops, cafes and restaurants, where there are many different competing sounds..

3) I’m Putting You Through Now

If you notice your partner struggling to make him/herself understood on the phone and making excuses not to make phone calls, this could be a wake-up call. Often telephone conversations can be a nightmare for those developing hearing loss. You may notice him/her changing which ear s/he holds the handset up to; this can indicate a drop of hearing in one ear. S/he will also develop a tendency of constantly asking the other person to repeat themselves.

4) Honestly, I’m So Stressed These Days

When a person who is usually easy going suddenly becomes stressed and short-tempered in social situations and this wasn’t the case before, this can be a sign of hearing loss. Of course, with this indicator, you would need to look for it coupled with other signs. It could be an emotional issue, something work-based, or even a health issue. However, with the gradual loss of hearing, stress does tend to climb toward the ceiling. It is difficult trying to keep your temper in the face of what can feel like a conspiracy being waged against you. When those around you appear to be communicating perfectly well, it can feel isolating to realize that you’re having problems.

5) Just Let Me Walk on the Other Side for a Change

When someone we know begins to make changes in daily habits, such as suddenly wanting to change sides when walking beside us, this can be a good sign that all is not well in the hearing department.

Read more: Why I finally decided my dad needs hearing aids

Be Vigilant

As you can see from the five areas I have put under the spotlight, it isn’t all that difficult to notice that something is wrong. Just keep your eyes and ears open to the warning signs that something might be amiss.

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How I explain my hearing loss to friends and family

Living with hearing loss is not an easy feat, but with the right support, it can be managed.

There have been a lot of questions and discussions in the hearing loss community recently, of how best to describe deafness and hearing loss to family and friends. This is how I explain my hearing loss to others.

My hearing loss is a part of me

You may or may not know, but I have a hearing loss. It’s just a part of me, it hasn’t changed who I am.

According to the World Health Organization, over 5 percent of the world’s population has a form of hearing loss. We all have various levels of deafness, different communication methods and use hearing technologies. If there’s anything you want to know about hearing loss feel free to ask!

Here are a few simple considerations to help make life easier with hearing loss:

Include me in group conversations

Communication is one of the main challenges we face, particularly in group situations. We can be quite good at hiding the fact we didn’t understand something or hear what someone said. It’s easy to get carried away in laughter or deep in discussion. If you can take a moment to repeat things, let us know the topic or repeat jokes, we will feel more included!

Read more: Never Mind: How to Handle Communication in Groups

Sometimes one on one situations are best

Hearing loss can be quite isolating. If you notice us excusing ourselves from groups, turning down social outings, please ask us if we’re ok. We do this because it’s easier to isolate ourselves than to deal with the hindrance of not understanding group chats, with loud background noises, but it can have a negative impact on our mental health.

We may prefer one on one situations. I’ll always be up for doing something fun just the two of us! There are lots of things to do, just a few small amendments like quieter venues, good lighting, off-peak times, it all helps!

Please have patience

Communication is a two-way process. If we didn’t get it the first time, we’ll get there eventually.

Please face us when talking, if we didn’t catch you, please repeat or explain things in a different way. If not, type or write it down. It’s easy to get frustrated if we don’t understand, as we feel the frustration too, so let’s work together.

We’re no different

Everyone is unique. Hearing, or deaf; we all have our own identities, traits, and differences. Just because we have a hearing loss doesn’t mean we wish to be treated differently. It’s a part of us.

Some of us have embraced it, others may yet to accept it, but we all want to feel included and loved, treated no differently.

 

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5 Myths About Hearing Loss People Age 50+ Believe

The older we get, the more set in our ways we become. For those over 50, stubbornness will often play a part in behavior and perception.

Hearing loss is no exception. The charity, Age UK, reports that over 40 percent of people living in the UK over age 50 have some form of hearing loss. This is no small demographic, and unfortunately, it’s one that tends to believe myths about hearing loss.

Over the years, inaccurate things about hearing loss are heard, overheard, read and often assumed. Left unchecked, these everyday myths about hearing loss can lead to people living their lives with an often serious hearing challenge, which can seriously impact other areas of life, including mental and emotional well being.

Here are five myths people who are 50+ believe about hearing loss:

1) Hearing loss is just a natural part of aging and something you have to live with

Yes, hearing loss can be part of the natural aging process. Even if it is, there really is no logical reason for ignoring it. Early intervention can be instrumental in getting you back into the mainstream of life, the quality of which will have already deteriorated due to the loss. In order for you to notice the hearing loss in the first place, you likely feel uncomfortable or challenged in some way. Take this as an incentive to make an appointment or take an online hearing test. Knowledge defeats ignorance every time. Hearing loss cannot be miraculously restored, but hearing aids can help compensate.

2) Hearing aids are just like prescription glasses because they fully compensate

This is a cruel myth because the truth of the matter often leads people to cancel appointments and give up using their hearing aids. Hearing aids won’t fully restore your hearing. Nothing can. What they can and will do is compensate for that loss in a different way. Wearing hearing aids allow you to experience those missing sounds in a new way. It isn’t about full hearing restoration; it is a new way to experience those sounds.

3) Wearing a hearing aid will make you look much older 

This idea is so outdated that it’s laughable. We now live in a microtechnology age, the age of miniaturization. Most modern hearing aids are so small, they go unnoticed most of the time. People rarely study other people’s ears. Faces and eyes draw more attention. People of all ages wear aids and many are now proud to do so. The shame and stigma are almost nonexistent.

Read more: NEWSFLASH: Hearing aids ARE cool!

4) It’s better to put off having your hearing checked as long as possible

Nothing could be further from the truth than this old outdated idea. When medical advice is sought as soon as possible, there is a high chance of a better outcome.Undiagnosed hearing loss has been linked to people feeling isolated and withdrawing from family, friends, and society. It has also been linked to mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s. It also takes time to get used to wearing hearing aids and the sooner you begin, the better and easier it will be for you.

Read more: Are hearing loss and dementia linked?

5) Hearing loss only affects your hearing

This can be a particularly damaging assumption. As mentioned above, the loss of hearing can and often does have an effect on other things. When you struggle to hear conversations and often miss the punch line of jokes, it can be easier not to go to social functions. It can be so easy to decide that you prefer your own company and assume that people tend to do this once they reach their fifties. Unfortunately, this kind of behavior will often lead to emotional upset and can lead to depression.

If you have some form of hearing loss — diagnosed or not — doesn’t it make sense to do something about it, especially that now you’re armed with a handful of myth-busting facts?

Read more: Why you’re never too old to try hearing aids

It might be that you have a hearing aid or two sitting snugly at the back of a drawer or you may have only recently noticed a difference in the quality of your hearing. At whatever place or stage you are right now, make your mind up to go and do something about it. That one first step could be an open door back to your old life.