Episode 3 Symptoms of Hearing Loss

The Transcript

Dale Johnson: Welcome to The Conversation Starts Here on KFOR FM, 103.3, 1240 AM.

Dale Johnson: The Better Hearing Institute says maintaining healthy hearing has been shown to improve everything from communication in your relationship to communicating with less effort and increasing your earning potential.

Dr. Miller: I know, isn’t that great?

Dale Johnson: We might go down that road one of these days.

Dr. Miller: We should do that.

Dale Johnson: Dr. Sandra Miller is here. Dr. Miller is of course from Complete Hearing here in Lincoln at 4200 Pioneer Woods Drive. Every Saturday morning, Dr. Miller and I sit down and we talk about your hearing and the importance of your hearing. I always want to turn folks to the Complete Hearing website for a lot of reasons. One is to be able to hear this conversation over and over and over and past conversations, past shows, our podcasts on your website. But secondly, good listeners will also be able to detail what we are talking about today. The symptoms of hearing loss.

Dr. Miller: Yes, we try to be very educational on our website, so a lot of things, I think as we talk about some of the things we address during our conversations here, you’re going to find a lot of detail on our website. So if you’re like me, sometimes I’m listening and I’m thinking I’d love to know more about that. Our website is a great place to find this in detail. And of course, you can always call us. We’d be glad to have a chat with you as well.

Dale Johnson: Six symptoms for hearing loss?

Dr. Miller: I would tell you that majorly, what-

Dale Johnson: Four or five?

Dr. Miller: Well, typically when people come in, the first thing that people are noticing is that, I kind of sometimes can compare this to vision, because people think so much about more of their vision where when I start to not see very well, I’m very more than willing to go have this evaluated and checked out because I need some kind of correction to help me see better.

Dr. Miller: When it comes to hearing, what we find is that hearing loss is so gradual and you can compensate in a lot of different ways when you have hearing loss. You can make the volume louder, you can read people’s lips, you can not go to a noisy restaurant when it’s super noisy. So you can compensate over time. And what happens is as hearing loss is more gradual, the compensation kind of takes over. And so people, when they first start to notice maybe they’re not hearing as well as they … don’t notice it or they may wait too long. And so when people come in to see us, we see there is probably, I would say five, six major symptoms that they are always checking off on their intake form.

Dr. Miller: And a major one of those is I can hear, I just don’t understand. And so that is a major indicator of difficulty understanding or maybe it’s muffling, things sound muffled. And that’s really an indicator of high frequency hearing loss. And so when you start to miss the articulation of speech … So everybody, I tell my patients, I cover up my mouth and I go, “You’re kind of listening like this. That just means things sound muffled and that’s because you’re not getting the articulation of speech. And if you want to compare that back to vision, that’s kind of like when you and I need readers because we can’t see the small print on the page and we need those letters more clear for our vision. Same thing happens with hearing. We start to lose the, really the articulation, we get the base sounds for volume. We don’t get the clarity for understanding. And that’s a very common, very common complaint.

Dale Johnson: So muffling is one of the four or five symptoms that you have on your website. Ringing and buzzing.

Dr. Miller: Oh.

Dale Johnson: Doesn’t that happen to most people in small portions?

Dr. Miller: It’s such a great question. I tell my patients, we have these soundproof booths in our office and I always tell them, if you don’t have ringing, I can put you in that booth and close the door and eventually your ears will start to ring. And that’s because our ears are very different than our eyes. So we can close our eyes and take stimulation away from our optic nerve in our brain, but our ears are always open and the brain always wants a certain amount of information from our ear. And so when all sound is taken away and it’s completely silent, the brain is like, wait a minute, I’m not getting what I need. And the neurons start firing and it’s looking for the sound and then pretty soon that brain is going to create the sound. So that’s a very rudimentary way to explain tinnitus or tinnitus. But we can honestly make your ears ring if we wanted to.

Dr. Miller: And for all those people out there who have ringing and they’re like, please take it away. But it’s a very common beginning symptom because that is really the brain telling you, Hey, I’m missing some information. And it’s a very big indicator. And people who have normal hearing can have ringing, but people with hearing loss, it’s very highly correlated to each other.

Dale Johnson: And it can get to the point where it’s debilitating.

Dr. Miller: Yeah, we can spend a whole session talking about where does ringing come from? Why do I have it? What should I do about it? I think that’s a great topic we can talk about in the future, because there’s so many people who deal with it. And how do I manage it, so we can talk through those definitely. We see a lot of this in our clinic and there’s many different ways in terms of lifestyle strategies, devices we can encourage them to use, so there’s a lot of ways that we can help them with that as well.

Dale Johnson: I’m sorry, would you say that again?

Dr. Miller: Yeah, yeah.

Dale Johnson: That’s another one of the symptoms. Simply say, would you repeat what you just said, please.

Dr. Miller: I would tell you the major thing we see when we see patients in our office, is there’s a communication breakdown that’s happening, whether it’s with a family member, a spouse, a friend. There’s a frustration level because I’m constantly having to repeat. I’m constantly having to repeat and what happens is when we ask people to repeat and we say, “Huh, what?” People are way less likely to be patient with us and they’re much less likely to want to share the information again.

Dr. Miller: So we counsel our patients to say, if you’re going to have to ask for repetition, try to repeat back something at least that you heard, like, “Hey, are we having dinner at five or six?” Like if you can give the person some snippets of information back that you, at least something you heard, they’re much more willing to have good communication and say, “Oh yeah, we’re having dinner at five.” So it makes that communication piece easier. But repetition’s a big one. I think that people, when you start to notice that you’re missing things and you’re asking for that, that’s a very big indicator.

Dale Johnson: If you walked around this building during the day time, and you’re only here for just a few minutes for this conversation, but you would hear volume at a level that probably wasn’t safe depending on the music that’s coming from one of the six radio stations in this building. So increasing the volume is another symptom of maybe the hearing isn’t what it used to be.

Dr. Miller: Absolutely. Initially, kind of with your vision that you can go get correction for glasses easily. Well, how we correct initially for hearing and not hearing well is we increase the volume. And so people, I would just tell you what, sometimes I drive around town and I think I will never be out of a job because I think about the loudness that people are listening to, even in their cars or we can spend a whole topic on talking about iPods and the things we wear to the gym to listen to our music and things like that where we can talk about what potential damage that’s doing. But I would tell you that the increase in volume is definitely something where like that’s one of the complaints we always get or he or she has the TV so loud, I can’t stand it.

Dr. Miller: And so when we think about, yeah, when my patients get fit with devices after they’ve, you know, “Oh we have some hearing loss, we’re going to put some devices on you.” They’ll come back and they’ll say, “Dr. Miller, my TV used to be on 52 and now it’s on 20” and we go, “Isn’t that amazing? Did you think somebody else was watching your television when you got home?” And so we kind of have a little chuckle over that, but that’s one of the first things people notice is I can have everything so much softer.

Dale Johnson: Another point is that hearing loss tends to shrink a person’s personality. They may have been gregarious and personable when they had hearing and because it’s gradual, they find themselves being less social.

Dr. Miller: Yeah. Well I would tell you, I would be an example of I have normal hearing and I’m thankful for that, but I would tell you, I don’t like to go out and have a social conversation in a very loud, noisy restaurant.

Dr. Miller: My husband said, “Sandra, you’re getting old because you want to go to dinner at five o’clock”, and I said, “Yes, but I want to enjoy the conversation where I’m at. So let’s plan on doing that.” And so a lot of times what happens is people will say, “Well, I’m not going to go there, or I don’t want to go to this event because I’m not going to hear anything anyway”, or “I’m going to sit at the end of the table and kind of feel isolated because I can’t follow the conversation. I’m just going to smile and nod.” And that becomes very frustrating and it becomes very defeating. And so we find that people’s personalities will change for sure. Where, you know, he used to do all these things or she used to be involved in all these activities, but now they’re not doing that anymore. And it’s more for the frustration or fact that they can’t hear. And whether they acknowledge it or realize it or not, it’s a very big factor when it comes to, “Man, I just can’t engage, so why should I go?”

Dale Johnson: If you were a doctor back in the fifties, would it be fair to say there were far fewer sources that would make a person develop a hearing loss than today? And the first place I go is the cell phone. The second place I go to are the earbuds. Both didn’t exist 40 years ago.

Dr. Miller: That’s such a good question. I think that, you know, we have a couple of things where we’re more aware today than we ever have been before. So we are protecting our hearing better than we were in the past. So I think about we see so many people who might be a military service where they were like, we never had a hearing protection-

Dale Johnson: Good point.

Dr. Miller: Or before OSHA and things like that.

Dr. Miller: So I think that’s one avenue, but I also would agree with you that we’re sticking things in our ears that are always in our ears and playing the volume quite loud. I don’t know when the Walkman came out, but I think about those things too, where we do have, we’re always inundated with sources all over the place. I think we live in a very noisy world. That’s one thing we tell our patients too, is don’t be surprised when you walk out the door with some devices on that it’s going to be, “Wow, Do we live in a noisy world?” So I think the noise pollution, per se, definitely has gotten higher.

Dale Johnson: Dr. Miller in the few minutes that we have left, we have so many different subjects that we’ll get to in the weeks ahead here on The Conversation Starts Here. So this is another invitation to you to join us every Saturday morning. Dr. Miller from Complete Hearing people procrastinate and it isn’t just hearing. People procrastinate cleaning their houses, people procrastinate washing the car, walking the dog. Hearing though, that’s a procrastination though, that can be frustrating for an individual and they don’t even know.

Dr. Miller: I think that’s very true. When we see people, the statistic in our industry used to be, once somebody notices they have some hearing difficulty, they wait seven years. Seven years before they would take a step to do something. I think that’s astonishing. But I also would tell you that what’s nice is our patients are getting younger and so I’ve been doing this for 25 years. My patients used to be 70, 80, and 90 and now they’re 40, 50, and 60 and that’s because people understand the importance of hearing well and how it impacts them. And I think that’s great. And because technology is so advanced and that’s a whole other topic we can talk about. The coolness of devices and what they can do, but I would tell you there is still a stigma out there that they think if they come to get their hearing tested for some reason, that makes them old.

Dr. Miller: We’ll get into talking about next time causes of hearing loss and where that comes from so that you know that this is not just an aging thing. That’s actually a minor part of it. And so I think people think if I go get my hearing tested, that’s just not a good thing. We want you to treat your hearing like you treat your eyes and let you treat your teeth. And so I think people wait too long and the longer you wait and you’re going to see this everywhere, the longer you wait, the harder it is to transition you into something, if you do need help because the brain is what we hear with and if we’re not stimulating our brain the way it needs to be, it takes a longer process to get used to.

Dr. Miller: I always tell my patients it’s kind of like, “Hey, if you came in and had a broken arm and we decided to take the sling off, do you think your arm would work as good as it did before?” Nope. Take some time. And back to that discussion we had about vision and hearing, vision is so instantaneous. We can put a pair of glasses on for most patients and they were like, “Yes, I can see great.” We put a hearing device on somebody and I said, “Hey, guess what? The weeds have grown in.” And that just means that the pathway from your ear to your brain needs a little bit of work and needs a little bit of exercise to get it working well again. Just like that arm that was in the sling, we need to re-exercise the brain for sound. And so I encourage my patients that don’t wait. If you are having a situation where you’re noticing it, but you’re like, “Ah, I don’t know if I want to do that.” It’s part of your health and it’s tied in. We’ll talk in the future weeks too about it tied to your brain health and what does that mean?

Dr. Miller: And so when you’re starting to notice this, don’t procrastinate it and make it a part of the overall general health and make it on that checklist that you have for, I should probably go have my teeth cleaned and I should have my eyes checked and I should go to have my physical done. Make this a part of that as well.

Dale Johnson: I’ll bet you heard something today that you would like to hear again, the place to go is Complete-hearing.com for complete hearing and you’re welcome every Saturday morning at this time on KFOR for, The Conversation Starts Here. Thank you, Dr. Miller.

Dr. Miller: Thank you.