Health Matters: Hearing and its connection to our health

marrinan story

May 11, 2022

Hearing loss is like a silent predator, it sneaks up on you. It is usually very gradual and people, often times unknowingly, develop compensation strategies to deal with it. These strategies can include lip reading, avoidance of difficult situations and increasing the volume on their TV or radio. Unfortunately, these strategies will only take you so far.

Hearing loss and its connection to your health

Hearing loss can have a negative effect on your social, functional and psychological well-being. When those compensation strategies begin to fail, you may notice a number of repercussions such as increased fatigue from the extra effort put into communicating; inattentiveness; isolation and feelings of exclusion; frustration; avoidance of social activities; heightened stress and strain on relationships; depression; and increased loss of confidence and sense of well-being. Researchers are also finding relationships between hearing loss and high blood pressure, cardiovascular events, increased risk of falls, cognitive decline and a possible shorter life span. 

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month. Dr. Kelly Marrinan is an audiologist at St. Peter’s Health Audiology Clinic. She is a certified member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the American Academy of Audiology and the Montana State Board of Speech Language Pathologists & Audiologists.

Hearing loss and its impact on communication

Our ability to hear affects our ability to communicate. Humans are social creatures and communication is very important to us because it keeps us in touch with one another and the world around us. Hearing is so critical to our ability to communicate you would think people would rush to get help when a problem is noticed, but they don’t. On average it takes a person seven years from when hearing loss is noticed for them to go in for an audiological evaluation. 

How to have your hearing evaluated

An audiological evaluation is the hearing test, but it gives audiologists much more information than just how you hear. It can help us determine if you have a perforated eardrum, fluid, a problem with the bones in the ear and more. We encourage patients to go in for an audiological evaluation as soon as they notice a problem, especially if it is a child who is having difficulty or sudden hearing loss. Time is key for treating hearing loss successfully. For some, the hearing problem could be due to wax, an ear infection or something else medically treatable. For others, they may need hearing aids. It’s important to note that for most, it’s easier to start using hearing aids and become acclimated to them early in a hearing loss journey while the brain still remembers and can interpret what is coming in. 

Signs you may want to get your hearing checked

Is your spouse/partner asking you to get your hearing checked?
Are you asking people to repeat themselves?
Do you complain about people mumbling? 
Are others complaining your TV or radio is too loud?
Are you having difficulty understanding women and children?
Are you having difficulty hearing on the telephone or at church?
Are you mixing up words or misunderstanding conversations?
Are you finding yourself reading lips more often?
Do people accuse you of “selective hearing”?
Do you have difficulty hearing in group settings or in background noise?
Do you hear noises in your ears when it’s quiet?
Do you say “huh” or “what” often?
Can you hear people but not understand them?

If you’re thinking, “I am answering ‘yes’ to a lot of these questions, but now what?” here are your next steps. While a referral is not required, I would encourage you to call your primary care provider and ask for a referral to an audiology clinic for an evaluation. They will work with you to figure out the cause of your hearing difficulties and come up with a solution to help you reconnect to the people and world around you. Many audiologists can also help you with the diagnosis and treatment of vertigo.