The last time you ate dinner with family, you were pretty frustrated. It wasn’t because of family crisis (this time). No, the cause of the frustration was simple: it was noisy, and you couldn’t hear a thing. So you didn’t get the details about Nancy’s promotion, and you didn’t have the ability to ask about Todd’s new puppy. It was difficult. You try to play it off as if the acoustics of the room are the problem. But you can’t entirely discount the idea that perhaps your hearing is starting to go bad.
It can be extremely challenging to self-diagnose hearing loss (that’s why, generally, it’s not recommended). But there are some early red flags you should keep on your radar. When enough of these warning signs spring up, it’s worth making an appointment to get a hearing test.
Early signs of hearing loss
Most of the symptoms of hearing loss are subtle. But you could be experiencing hearing loss if you can connect with any of the items on this list.
Some of the most common initial signs of hearing impairment may include:
- Somebody observes that the volume on your media devices is getting louder. Perhaps you keep cranking up the volume on your cell phone. Or maybe, your TV speakers are maxed out. Typically, it’s a family member or a friend that points out the loud volumes.
- Normal sounds seem oppressively loud. It’s one of the more uncommon early warning signs associated with hearing loss, but hyperacusis is common enough that you may find yourself encountering its symptoms. If you are experiencing this issue, particularly if it persists, it’s time for a hearing test.
- You hear ringing in your ears: Ringing in your ears is called tinnitus (and, technically, tinnitus can be other noises too: screeching, buzzing, humming, thumping, and so on). If you experience ringing or other chronic noises in your ears, a hearing exam is your best bet because tinnitus, though it’s frequently an early warning of hearing impairment, can also indicate other health problems.
- High-pitched sounds are getting lost. Maybe you just realized your teapot was screeching after five minutes. Or perhaps, you never even notice the doorbell ringing. Early hearing loss is usually most apparent in particular (and often high-pitched) frequencies of sound.
- You have a hard time following conversations in a crowded or noisy setting. This is exactly what occurred during the “family dinner” example above, and it’s frequently an early sign of trouble with hearing.
- You often need people to repeat what they said. This is especially true if you’re asking numerous people to slow down, say something again, or speak up. This early sign of hearing impairment could be occurring without you even noticing.
- It’s suddenly very difficult to make out phone calls: You may not talk on the phone as often as you used to because you use texting pretty often. But you may be encountering another early warning sign if you’re having trouble understanding the calls you do take.
- Specific words are hard to understand. This warning sign usually shows up because consonants are starting to sound alike, or at least, becoming more difficult to differentiate. The “sh” and “th” sounds are the most common examples. In some cases, it’s the s- and f-sounds or p- and t-sounds that become conflated.
Next up: Take a exam
No matter how many of these early warning signs you might experience, there’s really only one way to know, with confidence, whether your hearing is diminishing: get a hearing test.
Generally speaking, any single one of these early red flags could be evidence that you’re developing some kind of hearing impairment. And if any impairment exists, a hearing evaluation will be able to tell you how bad it is. And then you’ll be better equipped to determine the right treatment.
This means your next family get-together can be much more fun.