Just as the causes of hearing loss vary and accumulate, the symptoms and their effects do as well. While hearing damage can sometimes be physically felt in the ears, it is primarily a sensory loss that affects us psychologically and socially.
As well as altering the volumes at which we can hear, hearing loss can also cause sound to become dull and muffled. This makes understanding speech, locating its source and picking it out against background noise tiring and frustrating. Difficulties following conversations when in meetings, on the phone or while socialising with friends can lead to feelings of embarrassment, stress, isolation, loneliness and even depression.
Hyperacusis is often associated with natural aging of the auditory system related to old age. This phenomenon, called presbycusis, remains the main cause of hearing impairment, affecting approximately 40% of people aged between 60 and 69 years. However, this is not always the case as there can be many different causes of hearing loss.
In some cases, hereditary factors may play a role, while viral infections such as scarlet fever, meningitis, and rubella can damage the ear, leading to varying degrees of hearing loss. Even a common otitis, which is very common in childhood, if not properly treated, can lead to more significant hearing problems. It's also important not to overlook exposure to particularly loud noises, known as acoustic trauma, which can damage the delicate structure of the inner ear. It's also known that the use of ototoxic drugs, as well as the abuse of alcohol and nicotine, can have negative effects on hearing health.
It is important to know that identifying hearing problems is not easy and that your family and friends may notice symptoms and changes in your behaviour before you do.