Eventually we all lose our hearing, but there are signs and symptoms to look out for – in yourself and others – that could alert you to the onset of hearing loss and tips to help prevent premature deafness.
Listen up: it’s World Hearing Day on 3 March, which was created to raise awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and promote ear and hearing care across the world. You can read more about the World Health Organisations hearing day campaigns here.
What defines hearing loss or deafness?
What is “normal” hearing anyway? It is defined as having hearing thresholds of 20dB or better in both ears. A person with hearing loss is someone who does not meet this requirement in one or both ears.
What causes hearing loss?
- Congenital (a disease or abnormality present from birth) or early onset childhood hearing loss
- Chronic middle ear infections
- Noise-induced hearing loss
- Age-related hearing loss
- Ototoxic drugs (certain antibiotics, antimalarials and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, for example) that damage the inner ear
When to check your hearing
Many people live with unidentified hearing loss, often failing to realise that they are missing out on certain sounds and words. Going for a hearing test is the first step towards addressing the issue.
Symptoms of hearing loss to look out for in yourself or others:
- Muffling of speech
- Difficulty understanding words
- Difficulty hearing consonants
- Needing to ask others to speak more slowly and clearly or more loudly
- Regularly turning up the volume on the television
- Withdrawing or avoidance of conversations and social settings
All people should check their hearing from time to time, but particularly people who are at higher risk of hearing loss, such as:
- Adults over the age of 50
- Adults working in noisy industries
- Adults who listen to music at high volumes for long periods of time
- Anyone who is experiencing ear problems
If you – or a family member – are experiencing any of the above, contact your medical doctor for next steps. Visit the Medshield Medical Scheme network, to find a doctor or expert in your area.