Your last family get together was discouraging. Not because of any family drama (though there’s always some of that). No, the source of the difficulty was simple: it was loud, and you couldn’t hear anything. So you didn’t get the details about Nancy’s promotion, and you didn’t have a chance to ask about Todd’s new puppy. The whole experience was incredibly aggravating. You feel like the room’s acoustics played a big part. But you’re also willing to admit that your hearing could be starting to wane.
It’s not generally advisable to attempt to self diagnose hearing loss because it generally isn’t possible. But you should keep your eye out for some early warning signs. When enough of these red flags emerge, it’s worth scheduling an appointment to get tested by a hearing professional.
Early Signs of Hearing Loss
Several of the indications of hearing loss are subtle. But you may be going through some degree of hearing loss if you find yourself noticing some of these signs.
Some of the most common early signs of hearing impairment might include:
- Certain words seem harder to hear than others. This warning sign often appears because consonants are beginning to sound similar, or, at least, becoming difficult to differentiate. The th- and sh- sounds are very commonly muffled. At times, it’s the s- and f-sounds or p- and t-sounds that become conflated.
- You frequently need people to repeat what they said. If you find yourself repeatedly asking people to speak up, repeat what they said, or slow down when they talk, this is particularly true. Sometimes, you may not even recognize how frequently this is occurring and you might miss this warning sign.
- There’s a ringing in your ears: This ringing, which can also be the sound of thumping, screeching, buzzing, or other noises, is technically known as tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t necessarily related to hearing problems, but it is frequently an early warning sign of hearing loss, so a hearing test is most likely in order.
- Certain sounds seem so loud that they’re unbearable. This early warning sign is less common, but hyperacusis is common enough that you might find yourself experiencing its symptoms. If distinct sounds become intolerably loud (especially if the issue doesn’t resolve itself in short order), that could be an early hearing loss symptom.
- You have trouble hearing high-pitched sounds. Things like a ringing doorbell or a whistling teapot frequently go unnoticed for several minutes or more. Distinct frequencies (frequently high pitched) will usually be the first to fade with early hearing loss.
- Someone notices that the volume on your media devices gets louder and louder. Maybe you keep turning up the volume on your mobile phone. Maybe it’s your TV that’s at full volume. Usually, you’re not the one that notices the loud volume, it’s your kids, maybe your neighbor, or your friends.
- It’s suddenly very difficult to comprehend phone calls: People do a lot of texting nowadays, so you may not take as many phone calls as you used to. But if you have the volume turned all the way up on your phone and you’re still having difficulty hearing calls, it’s probably an early warning of hearing loss.
- You have a tough time making out interactions in a noisy or crowded place. This is precisely what occurred during the “family dinner” illustration above, and it’s often an early sign of hearing problems.
Next Up: Take a Exam
Regardless of how many of these early warning signs you may encounter, there’s really only one way to recognize, with confidence, whether your hearing is fading: get a hearing test.
In general, any single one of these early warning signs could be evidence that you’re developing some kind of hearing loss. A hearing assessment will be able to tell what level of impairment, if any, is present. And then you’ll be better prepared to get the right treatment.
This means your next family gathering can be a great deal more enjoyable.