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How Does Hearing Loss Affect your Speech?

a brown-haired woman touching her ear

Hearing loss can affect us at any age. For some, it can happen during childhood; for others, it’s a slow decline due to age. Over 42 million Americans experience some form of hearing loss. 

Many of us will associate a loss of hearing with aging; however, there are three main types of hearing loss that can occur. 

  • Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the most common type of hearing loss. It is mostly attributed to age, noise damage or injury. This type of failure can rarely be corrected medically or surgically, and usually, you will need a hearing aid for the rest of your life. 
  • Conductive hearing loss: Losing your hearing due to an obstruction in the outer or middle ear can also occur quite frequently. This can be anything from earwax to fluid, or it could be the side effect of a tumor. Because the loss of hearing is due to a blockage, it is often possible to treat the condition with surgery or medicines. 
  • Mixed hearing loss: Finally, it is possible to have a mix of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. While the sensorineural element isn’t reversible, some patients may find an improvement once the cause of the conductive loss is discovered. 

An audiologist will help you discover which type of hearing loss you have and will grade you from mild to profound. 

There are other issues surrounding hearing loss that don’t get much attention. One of these is your ability to speak. Most commonly, speech issues are experienced by people who have had hearing loss since childhood; however, it does affect adults too, particularly in patients that have put off seeing an audiologist.

How is speech affected?

Hearing loss reduces our ability to hear sounds at several frequencies. Depending on the level of hearing loss and how it affects an individual, it is possible that words formed cannot be heard by the speaker. This renders it hard for the person experiencing hearing loss to listen to their sounds which can make it harder for them to identify the right sound to create the word. 

There is a very close relationship between the sound your ears hear and how your brain interprets them. Over time the letters and sounds you struggle to hear can also manifest in your speech. 

You may find yourself unable to round out vowels correctly or to form words you have found simple to say. While there is a lot of muscle memory in the way, your mouth forms words, over time, you may experience a decline in your ability to get the sounds to develop correctly. 

What options are available if my speech is affected?

To protect your speech, it is essential that you act on any hearing issues as soon as you have concerns. This means making an appointment with the audiologist and having a thorough hearing test. If your audiologist recommends it, the best prevention is to have an appropriate hearing aid fitted. 

In cases where your speech has already become affected, or you have mild hearing loss, you could try to ensure any distractions or environmental noises are kept to a minimum. This can help you focus on your words and ensure you are forming sounds correctly. 

You may find you need to concentrate more on forming your words. This can cause fatigue, and you may find it a relief to use some visual cues to help deliver your message. In some cases, it can help to have a pen and paper with you for days where you are struggling or exhausted. It can feel incredibly frustrating to know what you want to say, but not be able to convey it. 

If you are supporting someone who is having issues with their speech, be patient. Offer them a calm and relaxed atmosphere and allow them the time they need to form their words. 

One option is to speak to your audiologist about support groups. There are multiple groups across the United States that will be able to help you with any issues you are having. Often sharing your experiences with others can help you to improve your techniques. 

Not everyone will suffer speech issues with hearing loss, particularly those who have sought out treatment at the earliest opportunity. Remember the technology is there to improve your hearing health as much as possible. 

Learn more about hearing loss by contacting Independence Hearing at 772-210-1800.