The last time you ate dinner with family, you were quite frustrated. It wasn’t because of family drama (this time). No, the issue was that you couldn’t hear anything over the loud noise of the room. So you didn’t get the chance to ask about Dave’s new cat or Sally’s new job. It was frustrating. You try to play it off as if the acoustics of the room are to blame. But you can’t entirely discount the idea that maybe your hearing is beginning to go bad.
It can be especially challenging to self-diagnose hearing loss (that’s why, typically, it’s not suggested). But there are some early red flags you should watch for. When enough of these warning signs spring up, it’s worth scheduling an appointment to get a hearing assessment.
Hearing loss’s early signs
The majority of the symptoms of hearing loss are subtle. But you may be experiencing hearing loss if you can connect with any of the items on this list.
Some of the most common early signs of hearing loss could include:
- High-pitched sounds are hard to hear. Maybe you just realized your teapot was whistling 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.
- Someone notices that the volume on your media devices gets louder and louder. Perhaps you keep turning the volume up on your mobile phone. Or maybe, you have your TV volume turned up to max. Usually, you’re not the one that observes the loud volume, it’s your kids, possibly your neighbor, or your friends.
- When you’re in a busy loud setting, you have difficulty following conversations. This is frequently an early indication of hearing loss.
- Normal sounds seem oppressively loud. It’s one of the more uncommon early warning signs related to hearing loss, but hyperacusis is common enough that you may find yourself experiencing its symptoms. If particular sounds become unbearably loud (particularly if the problem doesn’t resolve itself in short order), that could be an early hearing loss indicator.
- Specific words are hard to understand. This symptom takes place when consonants become hard to hear and 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.
- Your ears are ringing: Ringing in your ears is called tinnitus (and, technically, tinnitus can be other noises too: 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 frequently an early warning of hearing loss, can also indicate other health problems.
- You’re suddenly finding it hard to hear when you’re talking on the phone: People do a lot of texting these days, so you might not talk on the phone as much as you used to. But if you’re having difficulty understanding the phone calls you do receive (even with the volume turned all the way up), you may be experiencing another red flag for your hearing.
- You frequently need people to repeat what they said. This is particularly true if you’re asking numerous people to speak slower, say something again, or speak louder. You might not even know you’re making such frequent requests, but it can certainly be an early sign of hearing impairment.
Next up: Take a exam
You might have one or more of these early warnings but the only real way to know the health of your hearing is to get a hearing exam.
You may be dealing with hearing loss if you are noticing any one of these symptoms. A hearing evaluation will be able to reveal what degree of impairment, if any, exists. And then you’ll be better equipped to determine the correct treatment.
This will help you have a much more enjoyable time at that next family get-together.