How Background Noise Affects Hearing Loss

a hand cupped to a woman's ear

Sudden neurosensory hearing loss, commonly known as sudden deafness, occurs as an unexplained, rapid hearing loss, usually in one ear, that occurs within one to three days. Sometimes people with sudden hearing loss do not see their doctor right away because they think their hearing loss is due to earwax. However, if we delay more than three days from sudden hearing loss to see a doctor, the effectiveness of treatment is reduced. The incidence of this phenomenon is 20/100,000 per year. In 41% of patients, it is accompanied by tinnitus.

A loud ringing precedes sudden hearing loss in the ears.

The symptoms of hearing loss are:

  • We do not understand what they are telling us
  • We turn up the volume on the radio or television
  • We do not hear loud noises
  • We ask to repeat what we are told
  • We feel bad in a noisy environment
  • We speak loudly
  • We have tinnitus or the head
  • We have difficulty on the phone

Nine out of ten people with sudden hearing loss lose hearing in a single ear. Unilateral hearing loss significantly affects communication in background noise situations. Bilateral hearing loss means that this affects both ears, and in this case, you may find that certain situations create a hissing or confusion when trying to engage conversation. Some people have chronic hearing loss that starts slowly and begins to affect over time. When this occurs, background noises could, in fact, create more difficulties with your hearing. These background noises may not exacerbate symptoms but can develop issues that mean communication may be an issue.

However, you must establish if you are finding it difficult to hear things when it is noisier. 

Notice if you can hear clearly in noisy situations, background noise can be in shopping malls, car engines, people talking in a waiting room or even the television. You may experience hearing problems in noisy situations, such as conferences, restaurants, malls or busy meeting rooms. You may have difficulty in conversations involving more than one person because there are too many sounds to hear or distinguish between them. It can make the hearing loss even more challenging, and it may make you wonder if you need to speak to a professional – hearing tests and hearing aids are incredibly common and can assist greatly.

When to get help 

You need to take note and see if other people are noticing that you are struggling. If other people are commenting on your hearing, then perhaps you need to evaluate things. You may not have noticed any changes in your hearing because it was gradual. However, other people may start commenting on your hearing loss. Consider if other people have reported hearing loss. You may also notice that people are surprised or confused because you do not understand what they are saying. Outside noise will hinder you with one to one conversation and may make telephone calls difficult or close conversations. This means that you may notice some of the following: 

  • Do the people you are talking to bother to repeat themselves? Notice if other people are annoyed when they talk to you because you have trouble understanding them.
  • Do other people complain that you turn up the volume on your TV or radio? 
  • Have people commented that you speak too loudly? 
  • Do people change their speech patterns when they repeat to help you understand them? Examples of this are speaking louder, looking straight ahead when speaking or slowing down their speech and exaggerating their lip movements. This may indicate that the person thought they were speaking at an auditory level in the past and suspects that you have a hearing loss.

Seeing a professional for a hearing test is going to be of great benefit to you. If you suspect hearing loss, you should see an ear, nose and throat specialist for a physical exam. You may be asked to give a medical history and explain specific behaviors or habits related to your hearing. This doctor will rule out any underlying medical condition that may be causing your hearing loss.

A hearing specialist will of course examine your ear to see if there is too much water or wax in the ear, causing hearing problems. For more information on how you can arrange a test and learn more about hearing problems, environmental issues relating to hearing and any other questions, you should contact our team at GL Wyeno Hearing Specialists PC and call one of our friendly team members today at (402) 463-243.