The last time you ate dinner with your family was a difficult experience. It wasn’t because your family was having a tough time getting along. No, the source of the difficulty was simple: it was boisterous, 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. It was irritating. Mostly, you blame the acoustics. But you can’t entirely dismiss the possibility that maybe your hearing is starting to go bad.
It’s not typically advisable to try to self diagnose hearing loss because it generally isn’t possible. But you should pay attention to some early warning signs. If some of these warning signs appear, it’s most likely time to get your hearing examined.
Early Signs of Hearing Loss
Not every sign and symptom of hearing loss is noticeable. But if you happen to find yourself noticing any of the items on the following list, you just might be dealing with some amount of hearing loss.
Some of the most common early signs of hearing impairment may include:
- You often need people to repeat what they said. If you find yourself repeatedly asking people to talk louder, repeat what they said, or slow down when they talk, this is especially true. Sometimes, you might not even acknowledge how frequently this is happening and you may miss this warning sign.
- Phone calls suddenly seem muffled and hard to understand: These days, due to texting, we use the phone much less than we once did. But if you’re having problems comprehending the phone calls you do receive (even with the volume turned all the way up), you may be confronting another red flag for your hearing.
- There’s a ringing in your ears: This ringing, which can also be the sound of thumping, screeching, buzzing, or other noises, is technically named tinnitus. Tinnitus is frequently an early warning sign of hearing loss, but not always so if you have a ringing in your ears, a hearing test is most likely in order.
- You have problems hearing high-pitched sounds. Things like a whistling teapot or ringing doorbell sometimes go undetected for several minutes or more. Early hearing loss is usually most apparent in specific (and frequently high-pitched) frequencies of sound.
- Someone makes you aware that you keep turning up the volume on your media. Maybe the volume on your phone keeps getting louder and louder. Or maybe your TV speakers are as loud as they will go. Usually, you’re not the one that observes the loud volume, it’s your kids, maybe your neighbor, or your friends.
- You have a tough time making out interactions in a noisy or crowded place. This is precisely what occurred during the “family dinner” example above, and it’s often an early sign of trouble with hearing.
- Certain sounds seem so loud that they’re intolerable. This early warning sign is less common, but hyperacusis is common enough that you might find yourself experiencing its symptoms. It can be an early sign of hearing loss if certain sounds seem really loud especially if it lasts for an extended period of time.
- Certain words seem harder to hear than others. When consonants become hard to differentiate this red flag should go up. 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.
Next Up: Take a Test
Regardless of how many of these early warning signs you may experience, there’s really only one way to recognize, with confidence, whether your hearing is going bad: get a hearing test.
In general, any single one of these early warning signs could be evidence that you’re developing some type of hearing loss. What level of hearing impairment you might be dealing with can only be determined with a hearing examination. Then it will become more evident what needs to be done about it.
This means your next family get together can be a lot more enjoyable.