Hearing is our most important form of communication -- it's our lifeline to others. Yet many people and their families confuse hearing loss with memory loss and a hearing impairment can lead to depression, isolation (not participating in group conversation because you can't follow it) and withdrawl from activities. We stop doing the things we used to enjoy because we don't understand the events, games or programs involved and because we're embarrassed about it.
For example, playing cards, going to the theater, participating in group discussions or book reviews, etc. You may also find that your family is becoming impatient with you and with your frequent requests for them to repeat what they have said. Oftentimes you will find an increase in tension in the family because people are becoming impatient with you or they may treat you like you are confused. In the later stages of severe hearing loss, we may find an increase in auto accidents because we are not totally aware of environmental sounds such as horns or we can't hear the conversation in the rear of a vehicle. Dining out becomes a difficult experience because of the excessive amount of noise in a restaurant which seems to mask or overlay and camouflage the speech signals of the person directly across the table from us. In some restaurants, the noise levels are so high that even people with normal hearing have difficulty.
Generally, we become frustrated more easily because we are not deaf - we can hear and we know that people are speaking to us -- yet we don't completely understand all of the words spoken and in particular, the ends of the words. Our complaints may be that people do not enunciate correctly or that they appear to be mumbling. This occurs because most sensorineural hearing losses, which are the type associated with aging, are of a high frequency nature. We can hear the vowels (the stronger sounds of speech), but we can't hear the consonants - the M's and N's, the S's and the T's, which are usually the soft ends of words. In short, people aren't really mumbling or enunciating incorrectly - what's happening is we are experiencing the beginning or the moderate stages of nerve deafness. Obviously, the appropriate answer is to get our life cycle back on track by having our hearing evaluated for appropriate diagnosis and potential corrective action.