An uncommon chick needs an uncommon attitude to her health. To be frank, there’s a lot more to looking after our bodies (and our minds) than most of us realize. Many of us assume that so long as we eat right and exercise regularly we’ve got our health covered… And don’t get me wrong, diet and exercise are hugely important to our overall health. But there’s more to staying at peak physical and mental health than hitting the treadmill 3 or 4 times a week and refusing junk food. It’s about ensuring that we get enough sleep. It’s about taking a few minutes each day to meditate and be mindful instead of spending every free moment with our eyeballs glued to some device or other. And, crucially, it’s about knowing the signs that something is going wrong with our bodies, even if we feel generally fine.
That brings us to our hearing health. The trouble with hearing loss is that more often than not we don’t notice it. Hearing loss doesn’t usually just creep up on you overnight. It can take months, years or even decades for you to notice that your hearing isn’t quite as sharp as it used to be. The trouble is… The longer you leave your hearing health untreated, the more potential damage it can do to your wellbeing.
How hearing loss can affect your life and relationships
We can often take our ears for granted. But the truth is that while we humans may be a visually oriented species, our ears play a huge part in understanding the world around us. They allow us to communicate with others, sense danger coming and allow us to enjoy the little things that make life magical like music.
If you neglect your hearing health this can damage your wellbeing in a number of ways. Hearing loss can play Merry Hell with your social life. Over time, you’ll find following conversations in busy bars and restaurants harder and harder. It’ll become stressful and exhausting simply getting together with friends to catch up over coffee. You may find that you alienate your neighbors as their visits to politely ask you to turn down the TV or stereo become more and more frequent (and less and less polite). Your friends, family and loved ones (although they love you very much) will find themselves getting agitates when you keep asking them to repeat themselves and speak up.
People with untreated hearing loss can find themselves growing socially and emotionally withdrawn and that can have a profoundly negative influence on their mental health. If you want to avoid this downward spiral the trick is to know the signs as early as possible…
Signs that you’re losing your hearing
Here are some telltale signs that your hearing might not be as sharp as you once thought. If you find that you’re checking one or more of the items off this list in your head, it may be time to bite the bullet and talk to an audiologist;
- You find that you need to turn the volume up higher on the TV, stereo etc. than everyone else in your home.
- You struggle to hear what people are saying to you in a busy environment.
- Everyone seems to be talking too quietly or too fast in real life as well as in movies and TV shows.
- You find social occasions increasingly stressful and tiring.
- You often experience tinnitus- An ever-present ringing in the ears (more on that later).
Speaking to an audiologist can help you to identify the causes of your hearing loss.
If your hearing loss has become quite profound quite quickly, this could be a sign that you’ve got a buildup of wax in your inner ear. Ear wax is, let’s face it, pretty gross. Still, it’s surprisingly important for our ear health. It helps to keep the delicate skin of our inner ears soft and smooth while also fighting off infections. Over time, however, ear wax can harden and create a blockage that impedes our hearing. You might also experience tinnitus and a feeling of pressure in your ears.
The good news is that getting your ears cleaned out will usually help your ears get back to normal again.
Meniere’s and your ears
Meniere’s Disease is a genetic condition that affects over 600,000 people in the US alone. It is an imbalance of the fluids in the inner ear that can lead not just to hearing loss but to bouts of vertigo, loss of balance, dizziness and nausea. Unfortunately, this disease is incurable, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t treatable. Your doctor may prescribe you an anti-vertigo medication like betahistine dihydrochloride. They will likely also recommend that you reduce your intake of caffeine, alcohol and salt.
The tinny sound of tinnitus
Many of us who experience hearing loss also experience tinnitus frequently. Even those of us with perfect hearing experience tinnitus now and then- That irritating ringing or buzzing sound (some also experience it as humming or clicking) that has no source yet always seems to be right there in your ear.
Many of us experience tinnitus when coming out of a noisy environment like a concert, bar or nightclub and going into a quiet environment and it usually goes away by the next day. However, if you experience it regularly, this may be a symptom of one of the many underlying causes of hearing loss. Fortunately, your audiologist can come to your rescue, offering tinnitus treatment via hearing aids. You may notice that tinnitus seems particularly loud in quiet environments, and these clever hearing instruments issue barely perceptible sounds which mask the sound of tinnitus, while the built-in notch therapy can even train your brain to ignore the irritating and distracting sound of tinnitus.
It’s oh so quiet. Shhhhh!
Finally, while an audiologist’s help can be invaluable, it’s up to you to take steps to protect your ears and your hearing. Protect your ears with ear plugs when going to noisy bars, clubs or live music venues. Make sure you wear appropriate protection if you work with noisy machinery. And take a moment to appreciate the quiet every now and then. Your ears will thank you for it.