Let’s meet Rahul, a typical 20-year-old millennial who leads a regular life in a big city. His daily hustle includes going to work every morning, surrounded by the sounds of trains, traffic, music, etc. He reaches his office and plugs in his headphones to concentrate better on his work. Music makes the eight hours of work seem like a piece of cake.
Then he goes back home in the evening, watches his favorite TV show, only to be distracted by the sounds of the under-construction building in his neighborhood. He usually prefers to sleep at night with his earphones and some soft music. On one such day, he realizes that he has started hearing some sounds differently. He is still able to hear almost everything, but there is a slight difference. It is taking him more time and concentration to perceive sounds around him. After being plagued by this problem for a week, he goes to a doctor. To his horror, the doctor diagnoses his situation as a mild hearing loss. Let’s dive deep and understand what Mild hearing loss is and how it affects one’s life to a fatal extent.
One can define mild hearing loss in technical terms as the inability to hear sounds softer than 25 decibels. The classification of the hearing threshold of mild hearing loss is 26-40 dB. Feeble sounds like whispers, dripping of water, and natural sounds such as the rustling of leaves and birds chirping may become difficult to hear—most people affected with mild hearing loss stop hearing high-frequency sounds at the beginning. However, gradually, people also experience difficulty in hearing low-pitched sounds.
“People with mild hearing loss often report that they can hear but can’t understand conversations clearly.” 
Let us draw a picture of how a mild hearing loss looks! As a person with mild hearing loss, you can hear speech and experience different kinds of sounds. You would understand when someone is talking to you in a quiet room or talking loudly. However, you might get this constant feeling that your ears are clogged. You may also hear most people’s speech more like a mumble. Several people have described this as feeling like they have a considerable earwax build-up in their ears, and removing it would help them hear well.
Your brain keeps up with a general speaking rate of three words per second.
It can do this also by segregating speech from other sounds 1/10th of a second after sound enters your ears. But when you have mild hearing loss, this process becomes complicated. Your brain gets confused due to the disruption in the natural hearing mechanism. Sometimes, you can experience a mild hearing problem in one ear. Let’s understand how.
The estimated prevalence of adult-onset deafness in India is 7.6%, and childhood-onset deafness is 2%
What about a Single-Sided Hearing Loss/Deafness?
Single-sided or unilateral deafness is when a person has a hearing problem only in one ear. One ear’s hearing levels will be normal, whereas the other ear might experience mild to severe hearing problems. When you experience Single-sided deafness, your auditory functions get impacted, leading to less sound cognition as one ear cannot perform the role of two.
Single-sided deafness is a massive problem in India too. A study conducted in Delhi revealed that 32.4% of people in rural areas have some hearing damage. Of those who are plagued by this issue, 31.1% have unilateral hearing loss.
Single-sided hearing impairment can be an inherent problem in many individuals. However, some people acquire this affliction through their lifestyle choices.
There are a few significant problems that you face when you have a single-sided hearing deficit or deafness.
It can get difficult to hear in noisy environments. The sound may seem confusing to you, and you may not understand or differentiate sounds. Your ability to multitask can also get hindered because of the limited hearing. You may not be able to perform daily activities efficiently. Your balance might get disrupted to a certain degree.
A common phenomenon associated with single-sided hearing loss is the Head Shadow Effect. The difference between the volume perception of both our ears helps us to identify sounds and their location. If you have single-sided deafness, your head can block important sounds from reaching the ear with normal hearing. Your sound perception might get disrupted. This problem is the head shadow effect.
The way to treat single-sided mild hearing problems is similar to treating it in both ears. Doctors can treat unilateral hearing deficits with the usage of hearing aids and cochlear implants. These implants can make your life a thousand times better.
Most people choose to ignore Mild hearing loss symptoms and decide to live with it without understanding the adverse consequences that will have a lifelong impact on their brain and their overall mental health.
Hearing loss has five levels: mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe, and profound.
1. Normal Hearing: People with normal hearing can perceive all kinds of sounds. They have a hearing threshold of 0-25 dB.
2. Mild Hearing Loss: The hearing threshold for people with mild hearing problems is 25-40 dB. Quiet conversations can be challenging to follow, especially in noisy environments.
3. Moderate Hearing Loss: People experiencing average hearing deficit might find it difficult to hear speech at a regular volume. They may need to hear TV or radio at higher volumes. Their hearing threshold is 41-55 dB.
4. Moderately Severe: At this level, it becomes impossible to follow conversations or listen to the TV without hearing aids. The threshold for this level is 56-70 dB.
5. Severe Hearing Loss: The threshold for hearing is 71-90 dB. At this point, loud sounds like airplanes and lawnmowers can be challenging to hear too.
6. Profound Hearing Loss: This level is close to deafness. Anyone with a threshold of 91+ dB has a profound hearing deficit. Most people with profound hearing problems perceive most sounds as vibrations.
Now that you know the degrees of hearing loss let’s understand how we can identify if one is experiencing any form of hearing loss.
One would be frightened to know that there can be multiple reasons for the diagnosis of mild hearing loss.
1. Noise Exposure: We go about our lives daily without spending much thought on the amount of noise around us. Regular exposure to loud noises can cause Noise-Induced Hearing Loss or NIHL. Sounds up to the level of 80 dB are healthy for your ears. Any sound above that can be extremely damaging. 360 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss, and the most common cause for that is noise pollution.  Noise pollution can affect the end organs of hearing hair cells in the cochlea. These hair cells are responsible for transmitting electrical signals to your brain.
2. Ageing: This is also one of the leading causes of hearing health issues. People develop age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, as they start nearing old-age. These changes occur primarily due to changes in the inner ear and the auditory nerve. This kind of hearing problem makes it hard for a person to tolerate loud sounds and detect soft sounds.
3. Earwax Accumulation: Earwax can also be the culprit of your hearing problem. Earwax or cerumen causes a physical barrier that prevents noise from entering your ears. It stops noise from entering your inner ear. This cause of hearing loss is generally reversible. However, if anyone attempts to cure it with a q-tip, they might cause permanent hearing damage.
4. Ear Infection: Infections in the ear can also cause hearing problems. Earaches, discharge, and fevers often accompany the infection. If you develop an infection in your middle ear, it might lead to a fluid build-up. The fluid can obstruct the movement of the eardrum. Such infections can lead to permanent hearing problems. If you have any of the symptoms of an infection in your ear, rush to a doctor!
5. Abnormalities Since Birth: Some people are born with abnormalities in the middle ear. If the middle ear bones are not functioning correctly, they will not transmit electrical signals to the brain, which causes hearing impairment.
6. Medical Conditions: Multiple diseases can induce hearing problems, such as meningitis, cytomegalovirus, chickenpox, Meniere’s disease, mumps, and often jaundice too.
7. Accidents: Accidents and head trauma can also cause hearing damage in some people. If you get an injury in your ear due to Q-tips, that can also lead to deafness.
8. COVID: A recent study has shown that hearing loss could be a rare side effect of Covid-19. Even though it is uncommon, it has caused permanent hearing damage in some cases. Hearing problems are not a symptom of Covid, but a Covid patient can suddenly experience hearing impairment as a Covid complication. Doctors have speculated that this problem may also be a result of Covid medication. There are a few medicines that cause hearing problems or aggravate existing conditions. However, there are no proven causes.
Mild hearing loss often goes undetected due to the hardly noticeable symptoms.
“You can develop mild hearing loss at the rate of one decibel a year. That’s a daily change of 0.001 % of your hearing. That is why it often goes undetected.”
However, if ignored, it can lead to severe and permanent damages that will have a lifelong impact on your brain. Thus, it is crucial to be mindful of these slight symptoms, such as:
Our brain processes all the noise and sounds and translates it so we can hear and understand better. It is also responsible for comprehending speech and cognition. The sensory hair cells in your inner ear are the receptors of external auditory cues and sounds. These transmit electrical signals into the brain, which your brain perceives as sounds. In the case of hearing loss, these hair cells are either dead or damaged. This whole process disrupts the auditory system in our body, making it harder for the brain to process information.
Hence, a person with hearing loss has to use additional attention mechanisms so that their brain can understand several auditory and visual cues. They need to invest more energy in concentrating than a person with normal hearing levels. It is almost as if your brain is working overtime.
This problem is called concentration fatigue. Concentration fatigue can affect people with any kind of hearing loss, be it mild, moderate, or severe.
Regular conversations, sounds on the streets, sounds in crowded and public spaces, music, movies, etc.; any of these can cause concentration fatigue in an individual with hearing problems.
We all tend to miss out on some words while talking to others now and then, but does that mean we suffer from some form of hearing loss. If you have been experiencing any of the mentioned symptoms, you should check your lifestyle and try to understand the causes of these underlying symptoms.
“Even though the word ‘mild’ makes one think it’s not that bad, a mild loss can have serious consequences.” 
1. Cognitive Decline: Cognition refers to all the mental processes that are required to acquire knowledge and understand your surroundings. If your cognition is affected due to any reason, processes such as learning, memory, remembering, problem-solving, communicating, planning, etc. become particularly difficult to cope with. Dealing with daily life becomes a huge hassle if your cognitive factors are influenced by a cognitive decline.
A study has indicated that people with mild hearing damage are six times more prone to cognitive decline than normal hearing.  As you start expending more energy and brain function on hearing and understanding, there is less energy left for the other parts. Hence, your brain slows down, and it leads to a gradual cognitive decline.
2. Dementia: If a mild hearing problem is not taken care of initially, it can cause dementia. Dementia can cause forgetfulness, impaired judgments and thinking, and lack of emotional control. People with mild hearing issues are twice as likely to develop dementia than people with normal hearing. For every 10 decibel increase in hearing problems, the chances of dementia increases by 20%. 
3. Alzheimer’s Disease: Studies have indicated that as the brain’s hearing section becomes more inactive, the brain shrinks in size. This shrinkage is the most critical link between Hearing Loss and Alzheimer’s Disease.  Additionally, when people strain their brain too much to hear others, the brainpower needed for other essential functions such as remembering and understanding decreases. All these problems also lead to Alzheimer’s.
4. Depression and anxiety: Our brain plays a vital role in processing sound information. There are undeniable links between hearing health problems and the mental health status of a person. Untreated mild hearing problems can increase the likelihood of depression and anxiety. Social situations, feelings of isolation, and severe emotional consequences can trigger these mental health disorders.
Hence, one should never take Mild hearing loss lightly and immediately reach out to an audiologist to get their preliminary check-up done. Once a person is diagnosed with Hearing loss, it may come as a shock or take them some time to cope and live with it altogether. Here are some ways that might impact your lifestyle.
YES. Hearing impairment can prompt you to make significant lifestyle changes. A sudden change in your hearing health and a sudden diagnosis can drastically affect your entire life.
1. People newly diagnosed with hearing impairment have changes of going into denial. They withdraw from social situations to avoid embarrassment and confrontations.
2. People can often feel frustrated because of concentration fatigue or missing out on things. This frustration can affect personal relationships and social interactions too.
3. A fear of losing independence also comes over when initially people are diagnosed with this problem. They also feel that they might lose out on opportunities in their professional life.
4. People are also very conscious of getting the ‘disability tag.’ They are embarrassed by the taboo associated with hearing impairment.
5. Your ability to multitask can also get affected because of the limited hearing. You may not be able to perform daily activities efficiently.
6. Your balance might get disrupted to a certain degree. People with hearing issues, even of a mild degree, are more likely to fall.
7. You may face difficulty in pinpointing the source of the noise. Commuting in public spaces might be dangerous for you.
8. Remembering things, learning new things, paying attention to people, forming memories: all these are going to be severely impacted if you leave a mild hearing loss unattended.
If you face these issues or know someone going through this change, make sure that you are always available at their disposal during their initial stage. Make them feel comfortable enough that they can open up and talk about it. Find out the best resources like articles, blogs, videos that they can watch and be more aware of how to live with Hearing Loss. Prioritize their mental health and give them as much emotional support as you can so they gain the courage to accept it and live with hearing loss.
Normalize Hearing loss and openly communicate about it at your home and in your social circle, so everyone is more aware and mindful about being around people with hearing loss.
“There is an 83% gap in hearing aid need vs. use, meaning that only 17% of those who could benefit from using hearing aids use one!” 
Many people avoid seeking help, even when they experience the symptoms of mild hearing deficit. They have this overarching fear of social isolation or unpleasant treatment. This fear comes along with the stigma attached to hearing loss. We better stop perpetuating this needless shame associated with this problem!
If you have been diagnosed with a mild hearing problem, we have some advice to make this transition slightly more comfortable.
Don’t Hide Your Feelings!
It’s crucial not to recede into your shell. Do not hesitate to open up to your family and seek their support!
If that does not help, visit a therapist. Hearing problems are not only an affliction for an individual but also a family. It is always a good idea to include your family in your appointments too.
Explore Your Options
Once you consult a doctor about this problem, you should also explore the options you have in terms of treatment processes and lifestyle changes. When you start studying and weighing your options, you will feel more in control of the situation. Having the requisite knowledge will help you to alleviate some of your anxiety.
If your family member or friend has had a recent diagnosis of a hearing problem, try to make the process easier for them. Making communication more comfortable for them is the best thing you can do. Make sure you create an environment where they don’t feel uncomfortable or self-conscious.
Do these simple things to take this step:
A plethora of misconceptions always accompanies hearing problems. These myths can cause hard of hearing people to be treated differently, particularly in social situations. Let’s get rid of these myths and equip ourselves with the facts!
1. Mild Hearing Loss suggests little to no consequences.
Fact: As explained before, mild hearing issues may severely affect your physical health, mental health, and lifestyle.
2. Hearing Aids are the ultimate solution to mild hearing loss.
Fact: In many cases, a hearing aid may not be the perfect fit for you. If your hearing problem is due to earwax build-up or an infection, hearing aids will not benefit you. Sometimes, a surgery or procedure is the best way to tackle this problem.
3. Mild Hearing loss doesn’t need treatment.
Fact: It is a severe problem. If left untreated, it can upturn your entire life. If you leave this problem unattended, it can become severe in no time.
4. Talking louder will help people with mild hearing loss to hear from you.
Fact: People with this problem can probably hear you but your speech sounds muffled to them. Therefore, talking loudly will not aid the situation at all. It could potentially cause more damage!
5. Mild Hearing Loss is reversible.
Fact: Unless your hearing loss is because of an earwax build-up, this problem is always irreversible. With the use of treatments, your hearing condition can improve. However, once acquired, a hearing deficit is not reversible.
6. People with mild hearing loss need to rely on sign language or lip-reading.
Fact: Lip reading and sign language are excellent skills to have. However, people with mild hearing problems do not need these techniques in most cases. They can hear you clearly with a hearing aid or after applying the best-suited solution for them.
While these are some of the strangest yet popular misconceptions about mild hearing deficits, there are many other myths about hearing disorders that float around. Watch this video to learn about some more misconceptions about hearing impairment, in general.
The best way to deal with a mild hearing problem is to waste no time and consult a professional. Get in touch with an audiologist today before it is too late!
The audiologist will listen to all your concerns and address them. Then they will take you through all the steps to finally reach a perfect solution for you! To do that, they will begin by conducting tests to assess the degree and type of hearing loss.
There are several tests that audiologists conduct to detect hearing damage and to understand its degree.
1. Physical Exam: This is the most common exam, where the doctor looks into your ear preliminarily to look for causes of hearing impairment. Physical exams can be useful to detect earwax, infections, or inflammations. The doctor can identify fundamental structural problems through this method.
2. General Screening Tests: In this method, the doctor checks your hearing ability by exposing you to different sound and volume levels.
3. Tuning Fork Tests: Simple tests with two-pronged metal structures called tuning forks can also detect a hearing deficit. It can also help to understand where in your ear the damage has occurred,
4. Audiometer Test: These are more thorough tests in which the audiologist will ask you to wear headphones and listen to some sounds. Each sound is played at different volumes to test the faintest volume at which you can hear them.
5. Online Hearing Test: You can take an online hearing test from the comfort of your own home to get an idea about your hearing health. These tests are generally 3-4 minutes long, and they are free of cost. The results produced by these tests are also reasonably accurate!
Hearing problems are preventable. However, once acquired, it is irreversible. However, you can treat mild hearing issues efficiently with the following solutions.
1. Removing Earwax Blockage: If earwax is the cause of mild hearing damage in your ears, then it is reversible. Your doctor can use a few simple methods to get rid of earwax. There are simple tools with loops at the end, small suction tools, or the water pump technique. These methods are painless and straightforward.
2. Simple Surgeries: If you get a hearing impairment due to abnormalities of the eardrum or ear bones, a simple surgery can treat this mild hearing deficit. If you have some fluid accumulated in your ears due to some infection, a simple process can help eliminate your problem.
3. Hearing Aid: Hearing Aids are the most widely known solution to hearing troubles. These are small devices inserted in and around your ears. These amplify the sounds around you so that you can hear clearly. Modern hearing aids have many additional features that make your life much more comfortable.
4. Cochlear Implants: If your mild hearing problem takes a severe turn, cochlear implants are a good idea. Cochlear implants bypass the ravaged parts of your ears and stimulate the nerve responsible for transmitting sounds to your ears directly.
5. Bone Anchored Hearing Aids: Unlike regular hearing aids, doctors surgically implant these inside your ear. These hearing aids are responsible for transmitting sound by the process of bone conduction. These are more helpful for severe hearing issues.
The first step is to find a solution to find an audiologist who clearly understands your problem at a medical level and an emotional level! Watch this video to learn how you can select the best audiologist for yourself:
As discussed before, if mild hearing problems are left untreated, it can lead to severe brain damage and lead to dementia, Alzheimer’s, and cognitive decline. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues would also trail you wherever you go.
It will also directly impact your life. Your day-to-day functions will be affected. It will eventually lead to a reduced quality of life with high dependence on others, even for menial tasks.
“According to a study, people with hearing loss wait an average of seven years to seek treatment.” 
If you leave a mild hearing loss untreated, it will eventually become a severe case. Once it has reached that stage, there will be no going back. Treating this at an early stage provides you with the best opportunity for success and recovery.
Do you think you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms? If yes, consult an audiologist today!
Having learned about the treatments, you may also wonder if there is a way to prevent a mild hearing disorder and avoid all these problems!
Although you can’t prevent all the causes of mild hearing damage, noise-induced hearing loss can be. You can ensure that you take a few simple measures to keep your hearing health in check.
“Prevention is better than Cure.”
Here are a few ways in which you can prevent mild hearing problems due to excessive noise:
1. Earplugs: If you are in a noisy environment, always be prepared with a pair of earplugs. Earplugs are available in almost all drugstores.
2. Limit Noise: Avoid public spaces with too much noise exposure.
3. 60×60 Rule: While consuming content, follow the 60 x 60 rule, where your plugin your earphones for 60 minutes a day at 60% of the volume.
4. In-ear Monitors: These are custom-made devices for people working around a lot of noise, particularly musicians.
5. Filtered Earplugs: If you have to attend an event or a concert, use filtered earplugs to enjoy music safely.
If you acquire a hearing impairment due to other causes, you should rush to a professional. The slightest change in your hearing may require immediate attention. Consult a physician or an audiologist immediately.
There are also a few general prevention techniques that you can practice.
1. Lifestyle: Maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle can help you sidestep many problems. To ensure that you are free of any such lifestyle problems, avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. You should exercise regularly too.
2. Brain exercises: Like your body muscles, your brain also needs a workout to stay in top condition. Solve puzzles, practice yoga, and meditation for improved blood supply and increased secretion of brain-stimulating hormones.
3. Cleanliness: To avoid infections, always ensure that you are living in hygienic conditions. Keep your physical cleanliness prim and proper all the time.
When these preventive measures fail and you experience hearing loss symptoms, you should immediately seek professional help.
This problem plagues several children too! Many children are born with hearing impairments. Mild hearing damage can be harder to detect in younger children. Their symptoms of hearing problems in children are similar to adults. However, if it is left untreated, their speech and cognitive development may get impacted. Hence, the detection of a hearing deficit is crucial in children. Post detection, they can access the kind of support they need for their benefit. Such children also need special education services.
Other than implementing the solutions prescribed by an audiologist, you can also consult a speech-language pathologist. They can help your child with the development of their language and communication skills.
“A whopping 466 million people in the world have a disabling hearing loss!” 
Let’s take a look at the hearing health of the Indian population.
Approximately 630 million people in India are going to get some degree of hearing issues by 2030. These numbers are projected to be 900 million by 2050. These rates are undoubtedly alarming.
We can protect our hearing by always being vigilant about our hearing health, looking out for symptoms, making the earplugs our best friends, and visiting a doctor as soon as we start experiencing any symptoms at all!
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