The last time you had dinner with family, you were rather aggravated. It wasn’t because of family crisis (this time). No, the problem was that you couldn’t hear anything over the loud noise of the room. So you didn’t get the opportunity to ask about Dave’s new kitten or Sally’s new job. And that was really annoying. You try to play it off as if the acoustics of the room are the problem. But you can’t completely dismiss the possibility that maybe your hearing is starting to go bad.
It can be incredibly difficult to self-diagnose hearing loss (that’s why, generally, it’s not recommended). But there are some early warning signs you should keep on your radar. When enough of these warning signs pop up, it’s worth scheduling an appointment to get a hearing assessment.
Hearing loss’s early signs
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 may be experiencing some degree of hearing loss.
Here are some of the most prevalent early signs of hearing loss:
- You notice ringing in your ears: Ringing in your ears is known as tinnitus (and, technically, tinnitus can be other sounds too: humming, buzzing, screeching, thumping, and so on). If you have ringing or other chronic noises in your ears, a hearing test is your best bet because tinnitus, though it’s frequently an early warning of hearing impairment, 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 nowadays, so you might not take as many phone calls as you once did. But if you’re having trouble understanding the phone calls you do get (even with the volume turned all the way up), you might be confronting another red flag for your hearing.
- You have difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds. Perhaps you just realized your teapot was whistling after five minutes. Or perhaps, you never even hear the doorbell ringing. Hearing loss usually impacts specific frequencies usually higher pitched frequencies.
- You keep asking people to repeat themselves. This is especially true if you’re asking numerous people to slow down, say something again, or speak louder. You might not even realize you’re making such frequent requests, but it can definitely be an early sign of diminishing hearing.
- A friend points out that your media devices are getting progressively louder. Perhaps you keep cranking up the volume on your cell phone. Or perhaps, your TV speakers are maxed out. Normally, you’re not the one that notices the loud volume, it’s your children, maybe your neighbor, or your friends.
- You find that some sounds become unbearably loud. It’s one of the more unusual early warning signs related to hearing loss, but hyperacusis is common enough that you might find yourself encountering its symptoms. If you are having this issue, especially if it lingers, it’s time for a hearing test.
- You have a difficult time hearing conversations in a busy or noisy location. This is precisely what happened during the “family dinner” example above, and it’s commonly an early sign of trouble with hearing.
- You notice it’s hard to understand particular words. This symptom occurs when consonants become difficult to hear and differentiate. Normally, it’s the sh- and th- sounds that are muffled. But another typical example is when the “s” and “f” sounds get mixed up.
Get a hearing exam
No matter how many of these early red flags you might encounter, there’s really only one way to know, with confidence, whether your hearing is going bad: get a hearing exam.
In general, any single one of these early warning signs could indicate that you’re developing some kind of hearing impairment. A hearing evaluation will be able to reveal what degree of impairment, if any, exists. Once we discover the degree of hearing loss, we can figure out the best course of treatment.
This means your next family gathering can be much more fun.