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Having a mild hearing loss may seem, well, mild, but the name is a bit misleading. As a type of hearing loss, it can still impact your lifestyle on a daily basis. Even a mild hearing loss can lead to other medical issues and isn’t something to ignore. While this can create some challenges, it is also something that can be addressed.
What is mild hearing loss?
Hearing loss is grouped into four main categories: mild, moderate, severe, and profound. A mild hearing loss is usually defined by being unable to hear sounds that are quieter than about 25 decibels (dB). Sounds that often fall into this range are things like whispered conversations, rustling leaves, and soft footsteps.
Mild hearing loss may be classified as sensorineural hearing loss or conductive hearing loss. It can impact one or both ears. Someone with mild hearing loss may struggle to hear low-pitched and/or high-pitched sounds in that range, though most people stop hearing high-frequency pitches first.
What are the signs of mild hearing loss?
It may seem like other people are always mumbling.
People with a mild hearing loss tend to be able to hear speech when the room is quiet or if someone is speaking close to them. They can usually hear just fine when people are speaking loudly, too. However, they often feel that people are mumbling.
It may seem like sounds are muffled.
Someone with a mild hearing loss may be able to hear that someone is speaking but may have to strain to hear clearly enough to understand. They may feel as though sounds are often muffled, or like they have water in their ears.
Certain consonants may be difficult to understand.
Some consonants (/f/k/s/sh/) are naturally very soft and people with mild hearing loss may struggle to hear those sounds in conversation.
It is more difficult to hear in noisy environments.
Someone with a mild hearing loss may struggle to hear when there are competing sound signals (for example, speech and noise together). They can hear plenty of sounds, but they have trouble understanding words, especially against background noise.
Why should I get treatment for mild hearing loss?
In the past, mild hearing loss wasn’t considered a big deal. However, recent studies have found that even mild degrees of untreated hearing loss can increase the risk of developing conditions such Alzheimer’s, dementia, and cognitive decline. Untreated hearing loss can also lead to an increased risk for falls, social isolation, and depression. And of course, there is the obvious problem of communication. Not being able to hear clearly can cause frustration at work, at home, and anywhere hearing is important.
It is important to seek treatment even for a mild hearing loss. The brain center for hearing continues to hold sounds for up to three years following the onset of hearing loss. However, after about seven years, the memory of those sounds becomes weaker and weaker. When the hearing nerves lose their function and no longer channel sound signals to the brain, the brain “forgets” the sounds over time and becomes unable to understand them. Catching a hearing loss when it is mild gives the best chance for success with hearing aids and rehabilitation now and in the future.
What can I do about a mild hearing loss?
Even a mild hearing loss can impact your day-to-day. However, the good news is that it is correctable with hearing aids. With hearing aids, you will be able to hear those soft sounds and easily understand speech again. The sooner something is done about your hearing loss, the better the outcome will be.
The audiologists at Whisper Hearing Centers will be able to determine if hearing aids are right for you. Then they will help you select a device that works well for your preferences, lifestyle, and budget.
If you think you may have hearing loss, give us a call today to schedule an appointment.