The last time you had dinner with family, you were rather aggravated. Not because of any intra-family episode (though there’s always a little bit of that). No, the issue 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 kitten or Sally’s new job. It was frustrating. For the most part, you blame the acoustics. But you can’t totally discount the possibility that perhaps your hearing is starting to go bad.
It can be incredibly challenging to self-diagnose hearing loss (that’s why, generally, it’s not suggested). But there are some early red flags you should keep on your radar. When enough of these warning signs spring up, it’s worth making an appointment to get a hearing assessment.
Hearing loss’s early signs
The majority of the symptoms of hearing loss are subtle. But you could be dealing with hearing loss if you can relate to any of the items on this list.
Some of the most common early signs of hearing loss may include:
- You’re suddenly finding it hard to hear when you’re talking on the phone: Texting is popular these days, so you may not take as many phone calls as you once did. But if you’re having trouble 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 notice it’s hard to make out certain words. This symptom occurs when consonants become difficult to hear and differentiate. Usually, it’s the sh- and th- sounds that are muffled. But another typical example is when the “s” and “f” sounds become confused.
- You have a difficult time hearing conversations in a crowded or noisy setting. This is exactly what occurred during the “family dinner” example above, and it’s commonly an early signal of trouble with hearing.
- A friend notices that your media devices are getting increasingly louder. Maybe the volume on your mobile phone keeps getting louder and louder. Or perhaps, your TV speakers are maxed out. Normally, you’re not the one that observes the loud volume, it’s your children, possibly your neighbor, or your friends.
- You have trouble hearing high-pitched sounds. Perhaps you just noticed your teapot was screeching after five minutes. Or maybe the doorbell rings, and you don’t notice it. Early hearing loss is usually most obvious in specific (and often high-pitched) frequencies of sound.
- You hear ringing in your ears: Ringing in your ears is known as tinnitus (and, technically, tinnitus can be other noises as well: humming, buzzing, screeching, thumping, and so on). If you have ringing or other chronic sounds in your ears, a hearing exam is your best bet because tinnitus, though it’s frequently an early warning of hearing impairment, can also indicate other health problems.
- Normal sounds seem oppressively loud. It’s one of the more uncommon early warning signs linked to hearing loss, but hyperacusis is common enough that you may find yourself experiencing its symptoms. If specific sounds become oppressively loud (particularly if the problem doesn’t resolve itself in short order), that could be an early hearing loss symptom.
- You frequently need people to repeat what they said. If you find yourself asking multiple people to speak more slowly, speak louder, or repeat what they said, this is particularly true. This early sign of hearing loss may be happening without you even noticing.
Get a hearing exam
You may have one or more of these early warnings but the only real way to know the health of your hearing is to get a hearing exam.
You may be experiencing hearing loss if you are noticing any one of these symptoms. A hearing evaluation will be able to reveal what level of impairment, if any, exists. And then you’ll be better prepared to find the right treatment.
This will help you have a much more enjoyable time at that next family get-together.