The last time you ate dinner with family, you were quite frustrated. Not because of any intra-family drama (though there’s always some of that). No, the cause of the frustration was simple: it was loud, and you couldn’t hear anything. So you didn’t hear the details about Nancy’s raise, and you didn’t have the ability to ask about Todd’s new puppy. And that was really irritating. You try to play it off as if the acoustics of the room are the problem. But you can’t completely discount the idea that maybe your hearing is beginning to fail.
It can be especially challenging to self-diagnose hearing loss (that’s why, generally, it’s not recommended). But you should watch for certain warning signs. When enough red flags appear, it’s time to call us for a hearing test.
Hearing loss’s early signs
The majority of the symptoms of hearing loss are subtle. But you could be experiencing hearing loss if you can relate to any of the items on this list.
Some of the most common initial signs of hearing impairment may include:
- A friend points out that your media devices are getting increasingly louder. Maybe you keep cranking 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 children, maybe your neighbor, or your friends.
- You discover it’s difficult to make out certain words. This symptom occurs when consonants become hard to hear and differentiate. The “sh” and “th” sounds are the most common examples. But another common example is when the “s” and “f” sounds become confused.
- You notice ringing in your ears: This ringing (it can actually be other noises too) is known as tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t always linked to hearing problems, but it is frequently an early warning sign of hearing loss, so a hearing assessment is probably needed.
- High-pitched sounds are getting lost. Maybe you just noticed your teapot was screeching after five minutes. Or perhaps the doorbell rings, and you don’t notice it. Early hearing loss is typically most noticeable in specific (and often high-pitched) frequencies of sound.
- When you’re in a crowded loud setting, you have difficulty following conversations. This is frequently an early sign of hearing loss.
- It’s suddenly very hard to understand phone calls: Texting is popular these days, so you may not take as many phone calls as you once did. But you may be experiencing another early warning sign if you’re having difficulty understanding the calls you do take.
- You frequently need people to repeat what they said. If you find yourself asking multiple people to talk slower, speak louder, or repeat what they said, this is particularly true. You might not even know you’re making such frequent requests, but it can definitely be an early sign of hearing impairment.
- You notice 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 may find yourself experiencing its symptoms. If you are experiencing this issue, particularly if it lingers, it’s time for a hearing test.
Next up: Take a test
No matter how many of these early warning signs you might experience, there’s really only one way to know, with certainty, whether your hearing is diminishing: get a hearing exam.
Generally speaking, any single one of these early red flags could indicate that you’re developing some type of hearing impairment. And if any impairment you may have, a hearing examination will be able to tell you how far gone it is. Once we determine the level of hearing loss, we can figure out the best course of treatment.
This means your next family get-together can be much more fun.