Woman pulling a Jenga block out as a metaphor for how ignoring mild hearing loss can become a larger issue.

These days, people are no longer patients, they are healthcare consumers who take charge of their personal health management. Illnesses like heart disease or diabetes are not just a normal part of getting old, either. With this awareness, people develop an understanding of why diseases happen and how to prevent them. So what about hearing loss? Is a little hearing decline seen as a problem similar to high blood pressure or blood sugar? What is minor hearing loss and why does it happen?

What is Mild Hearing Loss?

A gradual loss of hearing is something people try to ignore until it becomes more prevalent, but is that the right choice? With hearing loss, how bad does it have to be before a person really pays attention and asks questions like is there anything I can do to prevent it? Like most things, lifestyle plays a big role in the age-related hearing loss. It starts slow and builds over time, so it’s easy to miss.

Mild hearing loss is defined as a loss between 26 to 45 decibels measured on a professional hearing assessment tool called an audiogram. For many, this is the beginning of what becomes a downward spiral. An audiogram is a graph that indicates a person’s audible threshold for certain sound frequencies. Someone at the beginning stages of age-related hearing loss might experience mumbled conversations at least part of the time. It will seem like the ear canal is plugged, so the sound is dampened.

Why Mild Hearing Loss Matters?

The mild hearing loss does affect your life. When talking to someone, the hard sounds are soft or disappear entirely. A boss telling you there is an office meeting at five o’clock sounds like:

There i an oice meeing at ive o’oo

Since words seem mumbled, you might start saying “what” a lot when talking to others, too. That eventually wears on the nerves of your friends and family. This slight decline in the hearing will interfere with your personal enjoyment, also. You start missing words the characters on your favorite TV show say making it easy to lose track of what going on in the story.

You’ll start looking for ways to fill in the blanks caused by your hearing loss, like putting on headphones or using earbuds. Those quick fixes only add to your problem, though. The drastic increase in sound waves as they enter the ear canal may damage the delicate mechanisms within adding to your hearing loss.

Hearing Loss and Your Sense of Self

As you become more conscious of your hearing problems, you can begin to see yourself as broken or damaged. Many individuals automatically equate hearing loss with aging. Denying it exists is more comfortable than facing the loss and seeking treatment for it like getting hearing aids.

While it is easy for you to pretend there isn’t a problem, it’s more difficult for your friends and family to ignore. Pointing out that you have a hearing issue leads to conflict, especially when it first starts. You want to fight the obvious, but they see the effects of the condition like the volume going up on the TV every night, the misunderstood communications and the potential safety hazards that arise with hearing decline. For you, it’s just a reminder of how the problem changes the way you see yourself.

What to Do About Mild Hearing Loss?

The first step is to see a doctor. Hearing loss is a complex process. Getting a hearing check-up might show the problem isn’t age-related but due to a wax build up or some other minor issue. The hearing decline can also be a symptom of a chronic medical problem like diabetes or high blood pressure. For some, gradual hearing loss is the first sign of these potentially serious medical conditions.

Next, go out and get a professional hearing test done. Even if the doctor is able to resolve your mild hearing loss, a hearing test at this stage serves as a baseline for your future exams. After five years, consider having another test done to detect any further decline. This way, you have a chance to take preventive measures and maybe save your hearing.

So, should you be worried about minor hearing loss? Simply put, yes, any loss of hearing matters in your life. It can indicate a medical problem and, eventually, change the way you feel about yourself. .