Your last family dinner was disheartening. Not because of any intra-family episode (though there’s always some of that). No, the problem 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 career. And that was really irritating. For the most part, you blame the acoustics. But you have to acknowledge that it may be a problem with your hearing.
It can be incredibly challenging to self-diagnose hearing loss (that’s why, generally, it’s not suggested). But you should keep your eye out for certain warning signs. When enough of these red flags pop up, it’s worth making an appointment to get a hearing exam.
Hearing loss’s early signs
Not every sign and symptom of hearing loss is obvious. But if you happen to see your own situation reflected in any of the items on this list, you just might be experiencing some level of hearing loss.
Here are some of the most prevalent early signs of hearing loss:
- High-pitched sounds are getting lost. Perhaps you find your tea kettle has been whistling for five minutes without your knowledge. Or maybe, you never even notice the doorbell ringing. Hearing loss generally affects specific frequencies normally higher pitched frequencies.
- You notice that some sounds become unbearably loud. It’s one of the more unusual early warning signs linked to hearing loss, but hyperacusis is common enough that you might find yourself encountering its symptoms. If particular sounds become unbearably loud (especially if the problem doesn’t resolve itself in short order), that may be an early hearing loss indicator.
- It’s suddenly very challenging to understand phone calls: You may not talk on the phone as often as you used to because you use texting fairly often. But if you’re having trouble understanding the phone calls you do get (even with the volume turned all the way up), you may be confronting another red flag for your hearing.
- You keep requesting that people repeat themselves. If you find yourself asking multiple people to talk slower, talk louder, or repeat what they said, this is especially true. This early sign of hearing loss could be occurring without you even noticing.
- When you’re in a crowded noisy setting, you have difficulty following conversations. This is exactly what happened during the “family dinner” example above, and it’s often an early sign of trouble with hearing.
- Your ears are ringing: This ringing (it can actually be other noises too) is called tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t always associated with hearing issues, but it is often an early warning sign of hearing loss, so a hearing assessment is probably in order.
- You discover it’s hard to understand particular words. This red flag usually pops up because consonants are starting to sound similar, or at least, becoming more difficult to differentiate. The “sh” and “th” sounds are the most prevalent examples. In some cases, it’s the s- and f-sounds or p- and t-sounds that get lost.
- Somebody observes that the volume on your media devices is getting louder. Perhaps you keep turning the volume up on your cell phone. Or perhaps, your TV speakers are maxed out. Usually, it’s a family member or a friend that notices the loud volumes.
Get a hearing assessment
No matter how many of these early red flags you may experience, there’s really only one way to know, with confidence, whether your hearing is diminishing: get a hearing test.
Generally speaking, any single one of these early warning signs could indicate that you’re developing some type of hearing loss. And if any impairment you may have, a hearing examination will be able to tell you how bad it is. And then you’ll be better prepared to find the right treatment.
This means your next family gathering can be much more fun.