The last time you ate dinner with family, you were quite aggravated. It wasn’t because of family drama (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 chance to ask about Dave’s new cat or Sally’s new job. And that was really annoying. Mostly, you blame the acoustics. But you can’t totally dismiss the idea that perhaps your hearing is starting to fail.
It can be especially difficult to self-diagnose hearing loss (that’s why, generally, it’s not recommended). But you should watch for certain warning signs. When enough of these red flags spring up, it’s worth making an appointment to get a hearing exam.
Early signs of hearing loss
Most of the symptoms of hearing loss are subtle. But if you happen to see your own situation reflected in any of the items on this list, you just might be experiencing some degree of hearing loss.
Here are some of the most common early signs of hearing loss:
- You frequently need people to repeat what they said. This is particularly true if you’re asking multiple people to slow down, say something again, or speak up. This early sign of hearing impairment could be happening 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 fairly often. But if you’re having difficulty understanding the phone calls you do get (even with the volume turned all the way up), you might be experiencing another red flag for your hearing.
- You notice it’s hard to make out particular words. This warning sign often shows up because consonants are beginning to sound alike, or at least, becoming harder to distinguish. The “sh” and “th” sounds are the most common examples. Sometimes, it’s the s- and f-sounds or p- and t-sounds that become conflated.
- Your ears are ringing: Ringing in your ears is known as tinnitus (and, technically, tinnitus can be other noises as well: screeching, buzzing, humming, thumping, and so on). If you have ringing or other chronic sounds in your ears, a hearing test is your best bet because tinnitus, though it’s often an early warning of hearing impairment, can also indicate other health problems.
- You notice that some sounds become oppressively loud. You may or may not experience this but if you do, keep in mind that it can be an early warning of hearing loss. If you are experiencing this problem, particularly if it persists, it’s time for a hearing exam.
- When you’re in a crowded noisy place, you have trouble hearing conversations. This is exactly what occurred during the “family dinner” example above, and it’s frequently an early signal of trouble with hearing.
- Someone observes that the volume on your media devices gets louder and louder. Maybe the volume on your mobile phone keeps getting louder and louder. Or perhaps, you have your TV volume turned up to max. Usually, you’re not the one that observes the loud volume, it’s your children, possibly your neighbor, or your friends.
- High-pitched sounds are getting lost. Perhaps you just noticed your teapot was screeching after five minutes. Or maybe, you never even notice the doorbell ringing. Hearing loss usually impacts specific frequencies normally higher pitched frequencies.
Next up: Take a test
You may have one or more of these early warnings but the only real way to determine the health of your hearing is to get a hearing exam.
Generally speaking, any single one of these early warning signs could be evidence that you’re developing some type of hearing impairment. A hearing assessment will be able to tell what degree of impairment, if any, exists. Once we identify the degree of hearing loss, we can figure out the best course of treatment.
This means your next family get-together can be much more fun.