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The last time you had dinner with your family was a hard experience. It wasn’t because your family was having a hard time getting along. The problem was the noise, which was making it hard to hear anything. So you didn’t hear the details about Nancy’s promotion, and you didn’t have an opportunity to ask about Jay’s new puppy. The whole experience was extremely aggravating. Mostly, you blame the acoustics. But you’re also willing to admit that your hearing might be starting to go.

It can be very challenging to self-diagnose hearing loss (that’s why, typically, it’s not advisable). But you should keep your eye out for some early warning signs. If some of these warning signs develop, it’s most likely time to have your hearing examined.

Early Signs of Hearing Loss

Not every sign and symptom of hearing loss is noticeable. But you may be experiencing some level of hearing loss if you find yourself recognizing some of these signs.

Here are a few of the warning signs of hearing loss:

  • You have a difficult time making out conversations in a crowded or noisy place. In the “family dinner” illustration above, this exact thing happened and it’s certainly an early warning sign.
  • You keep needing people to repeat themselves. This is particularly true if you’re asking multiple people to slow down, say something again, or speak up. You may not even recognize you’re making such frequent requests, but it can certainly be an early sign of diminishing hearing.
  • Phone calls suddenly seem muffled and difficult to understand: People do a lot of texting nowadays, so you may not take as many phone calls as you used to. But if you’re having trouble comprehending the phone calls you do receive (even with the volume turned all the way up), you may be dealing with another red flag for your hearing.
  • You experience some ringing in your ears: This ringing, which can also be the sound of thumping, screeching, buzzing, or other noises, is technically named tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t necessarily associated with hearing problems, but it is often an early warning sign of hearing loss, so a hearing exam is probably in order.
  • You have trouble hearing high-pitched sounds. Things like a ringing doorbell or a whistling teapot sometimes go unnoticed for several minutes or more. Particular frequencies (often high pitched) will usually be the first to fade with early hearing loss.
  • You notice it’s hard to comprehend particular words. This warning sign frequently pops up 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.
  • Certain sounds seem so loud that they’re unbearable. This early warning sign is less prevalent, but hyperacusis is common enough that you may find yourself encountering its symptoms. If specific sounds become intolerably loud (especially if the issue doesn’t resolve itself in short order), that could be an early hearing loss symptom.
  • Someone makes you realize that you keep turning up the volume on your media. Perhaps the volume on your phone keeps getting louder and louder. Maybe it’s your TV that’s at max volume. In most cases, you’re not the one that notices the loud volume, it’s your kids, maybe your neighbor, or your friends.
  • Next Up: Get a Test

    You still can’t be certain whether you’re confronting hearing loss even if you are experiencing some of these early warning signs. You will need to get a hearing examination to know for sure.

    You may very well be going through some amount of hearing loss even if you’re only experiencing one of these early warning signs. A hearing assessment will be able to tell what level of impairment, if any, exists. And then you’ll be better prepared to get the correct treatment.

    This will make your next family gathering a lot easier and more enjoyable.

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