Your last family dinner was disheartening. It wasn’t because of family drama (this time). No, the problem was that you couldn’t hear anything over the boisterous 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. Mostly, you blame the acoustics. But you can’t entirely dismiss the idea that maybe your hearing is beginning to fail.
It’s not generally suggested to self diagnose hearing loss because it’s extremely difficult to do. But there are some early red flags you should watch for. When enough of these red flags pop up, it’s worth scheduling an appointment to get a hearing test.
Hearing loss’s early signs
The majority of the symptoms of hearing loss are subtle. But if you happen to see your own experiences reflected in any of the items on this list, you just could be experiencing some degree of hearing loss.
Here are some of the most common early signs of hearing loss:
- You discover it’s difficult to understand certain words. This warning sign often appears because consonants are beginning to sound alike, or at least, becoming more difficult to distinguish. The “sh” and “th” sounds are the most prevalent examples. Sometimes, it’s the s- and f-sounds or p- and t-sounds that get lost.
- It’s suddenly very challenging to make out phone calls: People do a lot of texting nowadays, so you may not take as many phone calls as you used to. But you may be experiencing another early warning sign if you’re having difficulty understanding the calls you do take.
- You notice ringing in your ears: This ringing (it can actually be other sounds too) is called tinnitus. If you experience ringing or other chronic noises in your ears, a hearing test is your best bet because tinnitus, though it’s frequently an early warning of hearing loss, can also indicate other health issues.
- You keep asking people to repeat themselves. If you find yourself asking multiple people to speak more slowly, talk louder, or repeat what they said, this is especially true. This early sign of hearing loss could be happening without you even noticing.
- High-pitched sounds are getting lost. Maybe you just noticed your teapot was screeching after five minutes. Or maybe the doorbell rings, and you never notice it. Early hearing loss is usually most obvious in particular (and often high-pitched) frequencies of sound.
- Normal sounds seem oppressively 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 having this problem, especially if it persists, it’s time for a hearing test.
- You have a difficult time hearing conversations in a busy or noisy place. This is precisely 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 progressively louder. Perhaps the volume on your cell phone keeps getting louder and louder. Or perhaps, your TV speakers are maxed out. Usually, you’re not the one that observes the loud volume, it’s your kids, possibly your neighbor, or your friends.
Next up: Take a exam
No matter how many of these early warning signs you might experience, there’s really only one way to know, with confidence, whether your hearing is going bad: get a hearing test.
Generally speaking, any single one of these early warning signs could be evidence that you’re developing some kind of hearing impairment. And if any impairment exists, a hearing assessment will be able to identify how bad it is. Once we identify the level of hearing loss, we can determine the best course of treatment.
This means your next family gathering can be much more enjoyable.