By Danielle Hempel, MSSW Intern at Kentucky Youth Advocates

For many people, the five basic senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell) are not something they give much thought to. However, for those with hearing loss, it is something most of us think about everyday, including myself.  

After suffering from tinnitus, or ringing in your ears, since childhood, I was finally diagnosed with asymmetrical hearing loss when I was 22, joining nearly 700,000 Kentucky residents who are deaf or hard of hearing (HOH). For me, it was almost hard to believe that I, indeed, had hearing loss as I had habituated so well to my tinnitus that I almost never noticed it. I had just graduated college a few months before without noticing any problems with my hearing and was only a month away from starting graduate school. Ultimately, what this means for me is that I have asymmetrical moderate hearing loss in my right ear after undergoing an MRI to ensure my hearing loss was not the result of tumors in my head or neck. Receiving the results of my audiogram changed my life in an instant. 

Never before had I given much thought or caution about loud noises, preserving, or even losing, my hearing; now, it is something I frequently consider. Now, I visit an audiologist every six months to have my hearing aid cleaned, adjusted, and discuss any new changes in my hearing. I often wonder if my life would be any different if I had known about my hearing loss sooner.  

Hearing loss is more common than many would think; nearly 25 percent of adults between the ages of 20-69 who believe they have excellent hearing have some hearing loss. Across the U.S., it is estimated that roughly one in five teenagers have some degree of hearing loss– a significant percentage. While many people with hearing loss could benefit from wearing a hearing aid, only about 20 percent with hearing loss wear one, and many people who have hearing loss will wait, on average, seven years before seeking assistance.  

Undiagnosed hearing loss in children can impact language acquisition, literacy skills, social skills, and lead to academic underachievement. It can also lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and a lower self-esteem when children cannot communicate effectively. This is why it is critical for parents, guardians, and other adults in children’s lives to recognize the symptoms of hearing loss in children, including: 

  • limited speech; 
  • appearing inattentive or appearing to ignore someone speaking to them; 
  • experiencing learning difficulties; 
  • listening to music, watching the TV, or playing video games at high volumes; 
  • frequently misunderstanding speech or providing inappropriate answers to speech (this may be exacerbated when wearing masks); and 
  • being startled by loud noises.

If parents recognize these symptoms in their childthey should take them to receive a hearing test administered by an audiologist. Parents may also need to take their child to an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist to determine the cause of the hearing loss (e.g., disease, cancer, and benign tumors in the head and neck). 

Looking to learn more about hearing loss? Check out the resources below: 

March 3, 2021 is World Hearing Day — learn more from the World Health Organization.

This post is part of the blog series, Intern Insights