The last time you had dinner with family, you were quite frustrated. It wasn’t because of family crisis (this time). No, the source of the stress was simple: it was noisy, and you couldn’t hear anything. So you didn’t get the chance to ask about Dave’s new kitten or Sally’s new career. 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 entirely discount the possibility that maybe your hearing is starting to fail.
It can be especially challenging to self-diagnose hearing loss (that’s why, typically, it’s not suggested). But you should watch for certain warnings. When enough red flags appear, it’s time to contact us for a hearing assessment.
Hearing loss’s early signs
Not every symptom and sign of hearing loss is noticeable. 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 prevalent early signs of hearing loss:
- You hear ringing in your ears: Ringing in your ears is called tinnitus (and, technically, tinnitus can be other sounds too: screeching, buzzing, humming, thumping, and so on). If you experience ringing or other chronic sounds in your ears, a hearing exam is your best bet because tinnitus, though it’s often an early warning of hearing impairment, can also indicate other health problems.
- A friend points out that your media devices are getting progressively louder. Maybe you keep cranking up the volume on your cell phone. Or maybe, you have your TV volume turned up to max. Normally, you’re not the one that observes the loud volume, it’s your children, possibly your neighbor, or your friends.
- You keep asking people to repeat themselves. If you find yourself asking numerous people to talk more slowly, speak louder, or repeat what they said, this is especially true. This early sign of hearing impairment could be occurring without you even noticing.
- You have difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds. Maybe you just realized your teapot was whistling after five minutes. Or maybe the doorbell rings, and you never notice it. Early hearing loss is typically most noticeable in particular (and often high-pitched) frequencies of sound.
- You have a difficult time hearing conversations in a busy or noisy setting. This is often an early indication of hearing loss.
- Normal sounds seem unbearably 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 you are experiencing this problem, particularly if it lingers, it’s time for a hearing test.
- 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 take as many phone calls 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 might be confronting another red flag for your hearing.
- You discover it’s hard to understand particular words. This warning sign frequently pops up because consonants are starting to sound similar, or at least, becoming harder to differentiate. Normally, it’s the sh- and th- sounds that are muffled. But another typical example is when the “s” and “f” sounds become confused.
Next up: Take a test
No matter how many of these early red flags you might encounter, there’s really only one way to know, with certainty, whether your hearing is diminishing: get a hearing test.
In general, any single one of these early warning signs could indicate that you’re developing some kind of hearing loss. A hearing evaluation will be able to reveal what level of impairment, if any, exists. Once we determine the level of hearing loss, we can determine the best course of treatment.
This means your next family gathering can be much more enjoyable.