Two women listening to each other. With Philips HearLink hearing aids you can continue to listen even with a hearing loss.
 

Hearing loss can have a big impact

Hearing problems can affect your social life. It can be challenging to connect with your surroundings, like engaging in a conversation in a busy restaurant or attending a live music concert. With a hearing loss you may experience that you avoid social situations and lose interest in activities that you once enjoyed. The impact of hearing loss on quality of life can be substantial. Fortunately, there is help available.

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Signs of hearing loss

Most hearing loss happens so gradually that you may not notice it for quite some time. Look out for these possible signs:

  • You may find yourself straining to hear conversations. 
  • You may become tired from the effort required to listen. 
  • You may need to turn up the TV louder than before. 
  • You may notice that you have to ask people to repeat themselves.
  • You may feel that you can hear but cannot always understand what you hear.
  • It may seem like people mumble sometimes.
If you suspect that you have hearing loss, keep in mind that you are not alone. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are about 360 million people worldwide who suffer from hearing loss. Nearly one out of every three persons over 65 years of age are affected by hearing loss.
You should protect your hearing when exposed to very loud sounds like at a concert to avoid hearing loss later in life

What causes hearing loss?

As with other senses and functions of the human body, our hearing ability can decrease over time. This is just a natural development as we grow older. Other causes of hearing loss can be: 

  • trauma or injury to the head
  • genetic factors
  • prolonged exposure to excessively loud noise
  • a single exposure to a very loud sound
  • specific medical conditions or certain medications.
     

What types of hearing loss can occur?

  • Sensorineural hearing loss

    Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss. It is caused either by damage to the hair cells in the inner ear or to the auditory nerve. In most cases, this hearing loss is permanent. 

  • Conductive hearing loss

    Conductive hearing loss is caused by a mechanical problem in the outer or middle ear such as ear wax that blocks sound from getting to the eardrum. In most cases, this type of hearing loss is temporary and can be treated medically.

  • Mixed hearing loss

    Mixed hearing loss results when there are components of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss present.

A hearing care professional is looking with an otoscope into the ear canal of a patient

How to improve hearing


The best thing you can do is to contact your general practitioner to rule out any medical causes. In most cases, they will then recommend that you see an ENT physician, audiologist or hearing care specialist for further assessment. 

During the appointment with a specialist, you will be asked questions related to your hearing. You will then have a visual examination of your ears using an otoscope. This can help to identify the cause of your hearing loss, as it could be related to a blockage in the ear canal or an issue with your middle ear.

 

What happens during a hearing test?

During a hearing test, you will listen to a series of tones via headphones. You will be asked repeatedly to indicate what you hear. This will result in an audiogram. Based on that audiogram, the hearing care professional will be able to tell you at what frequencies and volume you are able to hear sounds. This ultimately determines if you have a hearing loss and to what degree. 

An audiogram showing hearing ability in terms of sound volume (or intensity) measured in decibels and frequency in Hertz

The vertical axis of the audiogram represents the sound volume or intensity, which is measured in decibels (dB). The more one moves down the axis, the louder the sound becomes. Zero decibels at the top of the axis represents the softest sound a person with normal hearing can hear. Red is the right ear and blue is the left ear.

The horizontal axis of the audiogram represents the frequency of sound and is measured in Hertz (Hz). The frequency increases gradually the further one moves to the right along the axis. This can be compared to playing the low notes on the left side of a piano and then gradually moving to the right side where the notes becomes more and more high-pitched.

How is the degree of a hearing loss defined?

Hearing care professionals sometimes use a chart that is called the “speech banana”. This chart describes where the sounds used in everyday human speech occur on an audiogram. It also helps to explain how speech understanding is affected by the degree of hearing loss.

Chart with speech banana shows which sounds are heard at what frequency and loudness level, indicating degree of hearing loss

  • Mild hearing loss

    A bird chirping, a dripping tap and other soft sounds are often difficult to hear. So are high-frequency speech sounds, especially in noisy settings.

  • Moderate hearing loss

    A phone ringing or the whirring of the fan may go unnoticed. Group discussions are more complicated and tiring to follow.

  • Severe to profound hearing loss

    Music and traffic sounds become muffled and it becomes a struggle to follow discussions without a great deal of concentration. Even one-on-one conversations may sound mumbled and indistinct.

Man sitting on a couch checking his hearing with the online hearing test

Check your hearing

Would you like to learn more about your hearing ability? Within five minutes we can give you an idea of how well you hear*.

 

*Test to determine if you could be helped by a hearing aid.