If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my long career in audiology, it’s that usually, if people think they have hearing loss, they’re right. But not always.
The other day, I had a young professional in my office that had been struggling with work for months. She’d been having serious trouble communicating with her colleagues. And it had begun to weigh on her.
I listened to her story and guessed that she probably was dealing with hearing loss. But as she went through the tests, we realized that actually her hearing was totally normal.
So what’s going on here?
There are a few things that though they’re not actual hearing loss, can cause the similar communication difficulties.
For instance, after some digging, I learned that this patient was going through menopause. A likely culprit for her problem. Changes in hormones can cause problems with the way your brain processes sound. In turn messing with your ability to comprehend speech.
Other communication difficulties can come from undiagnosed ADHD. Which can make it difficult to filter out unnecessary information and listen properly. Ototoxic medications, head trauma or drug and alcohol use.
But perhaps the most everyday source of hearing problems without hearing loss is overwhelming stress.
Sometimes people have so much going on that it begins to affect the neural pathways responsible for hearing.
What you can do
Regardless of the source of the hearing difficulty, my advice typically includes three items. First, I advise them to tell their close friends and family that though their hearing test turned up negative for hearing loss, their loved ones should almost treat them as if it hadn’t. That means getting their full attention before speaking, sitting face to face with them, and sometimes speaking a little slower.
Second, I tell them to avoid situations in which hearing is likely to become a problem. For instance, instead of choosing the loudest restaurant in town, they should seek out quieter locations where conversation isn’t a chore.
Finally, for patients who struggle to communicate effectively on the phone, and there are tons of them. I suggest that instead of holding up the earpiece to their ear, they invest in a pair of wireless headphones for their phone. This allows them to block out outside noise. And puts the incoming audio in stereo, making it much easier to understand.
Hearing aids are a powerful tool for treating poor hearing. But they’re not usually effective for those of us suffering from auditory problems that aren’t hearing loss.
Luckily, there are still strategies and treatments that can restore your communicative abilities. And prevent hearing from becoming a problem in your daily life.
If you’d like to find out how, give me a call at 617-934-6987. Getting your hearing tested is the first step towards a better life!