Unfortunately, a gradual loss in hearing is a natural part of the aging process. While not the same thing as noise-induced hearing loss, the two often go hand-in-hand when it comes to damaging our auricular facilities throughout the years, especially with the fairly recent rise to popularity of in-ear headphones. While precautions, such as accessing a free online hearing test, can be taken to reduce the risk of noise-induced hearing loss, sadly medical science has not yet found a way to prevent or reverse the process of age-related hearing loss. How do you know which form is affecting you? Here are a few signs that the hearing loss you’re experiencing is due to age rather than exposure to noise.
1. Difficulty with higher frequencies. While noise-induced hearing loss results in a general increase in deafness, age-induced hearing loss tends to give you trouble with higher-pitched noises specifically. If you can hear men’s voices easily, but struggle to hear women or children, it is more likely that the struggle is due to age rather than noise exposure. You may also find difficulties with harder consonant sounds, like a hard ‘t’ or ‘p’.
2. Difficulty due to background noises. If you can usually do fine during one-on-one conversations in the comfort of your own home, but struggle at parties or other situations with a lot going on in the background, this is likely due to age as well. Similar to the way higher-pitched noises give you trouble, the specificity of the loss rather than a general reduction in hearing is a sign that noise exposure is not the cause of the problem, or is to a much lesser degree. On the flip side, while these background noises may prevent you from hearing conversations, you may also find it difficult to discern and listen to the individual background noises as well.
3. Loss of sound directionality. If you sometimes hear noises but are not sure where they are coming from, or can only hear sounds when they come from in front of you, you might be experiencing age-related hearing loss. With this can also come spells of dizziness or disorientation, caused by a decreased ability to perceive the spatial components of the area around you and where you are situated in space.
4. Months, if not years, before you noticed a problem. Unlike the damage caused by one extremely loud concert or working in an intensely noisy environment, the loss of hearing due to age comes on extremely gradually, so slowly that you will not even realize it is happening. If you find that those around you complain that the TV or radio is too loud when you think it is just loud enough, or using the phone has become increasingly difficult, it may be a sign that you have lost some of your hearing and simply not yet realized it.
If any of these things apply to you, it is recommended that you make an appointment with your doctor to have the situation evaluated. While there is no cure for age-related hearing loss, there are plenty of ways to minimize the symptoms and allow you to live as normal a life as possible. Age related hearing loss is a natural process, but it does not doom you to a decreased quality of living.