Hearing depends on the ability of the complex auditory system to detect sound and transmit it to the brain for processing. Any alteration in the capacity to hear is considered hearing loss, or hearing impairment. When hearing is compromised, the extent of loss is described as one of four degrees: mild, moderate, severe, or profound.
Who is affected: Hearing loss can occur at any age and result from a single cause or a combination of factors, such as injury, illness, trauma, genetics, or age. Many factors can impact the effective transmission and translation of vibrations at any stage of the multi-step process of hearing.
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Red Flags: Signs of Hearing Loss
The only way to determine the presence or extent of hearing loss is to have a professionally administered hearing test. Signs of hearing loss that might indicate a hearing evaluation is in order, in a person of any age, include:
- Muffled or distorted hearing;
- Difficulty hearing everyday sounds (birds chirping, doorbell ringing);
- Difficulty understanding speech during phone conversations, group conversations or when there is competing background noise;
- Avoiding conversation and social interaction; or
- Listening to the television or radio at a higher volume than in the past.
The individual experiencing these issues often does not realize it, or may not want to accept it. Other peoplea��family members, coworkers, or friendsa��are often the first to observe and point out these problems.