Q: “I’ve noticed that I’m not hearing things that I used to. I feel like recently things have been quieter, and I’m just missing things that I usually don’t. Why the sudden change?”
A: This is actually a question we hear often.
Many of our patients will report that their hearing has decreased just in the last few months to a year. However, if you ask their family or friends, they will tell you that the hearing problem has been going on for significantly longer.
So, why would there be such a difference of opinion? In most cases, people lose their hearing only in specific frequencies or pitches. AudigyCertified™ providers refer to this phenomenon as a Sound Void™. To better explain this, think of your hearing like a piano. Our ears are able to hear high notes, low notes, and everything in between. In the case of a Sound Void, hearing only decreases in a part of that range. Most times this results in a momentary lack of clarity, creating difficulty hearing only specific people or difficulty hearing in noise.
From the patient’s viewpoint, it may not sound like their problem at all. In fact, the patient may feel as though it is the fault of the speaker, even going so far as to accuse them of mumbling, not speaking clearly, or telling them to enunciate what they’re saying. Since Sound Voids develop gradually, patients may not realize that the problem is their hearing until so many voices are affected that it no longer can be overlooked. Even so, since the patient has only been aware of their issue for a short period of time, to them the problem has only existed since they noticed it.
On the other hand, if a patient experiences true sudden loss, like waking up in the morning with little or no hearing in one or both ears, it is extremely important to act quickly. This type of situation can be very serious, so what I tell patients (and anyone else who will listen) is that if this ever happens, your local audiologist is not the place to go. In a case like this, the patient needs to get to a physician — particularly one that specializes in ears — as soon as possible. Many of these cases will also involve dizziness and/or loud ringing in the ears. Remember, your medical doctor or the emergency room is the place to go in cases of sudden hearing loss.
For the most part, Sound Voids develop slowly over time and may be tough to recognize, especially for the patient. Because they process very slowly, it may be difficult to realize that sounds are being missed. The good news is that they are very treatable. If you begin to notice that you or a person you love seems to be having trouble hearing, be sure to have your hearing checked. You’ll be happy you did.