Your last family dinner was disheartening. Not because of any intra-family drama (though there’s always some of that). No, the source of the stress was simple: it was noisy, and you couldn’t hear anything. So you didn’t get the opportunity 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 admit that it may be an issue with your hearing.
It can be incredibly challenging to self-diagnose hearing loss (that’s why, generally, it’s not recommended). But there are some early warning signs you should keep on your radar. When enough of these warning signs pop up, it’s worth scheduling an appointment to get a hearing assessment.
Early signs of hearing loss
Not every symptom and sign of hearing loss is evident. But you might be dealing with hearing loss if you can relate to any of the items on this list.
Some of the most common initial signs of hearing loss may include:
- When you’re in a busy loud place, you have difficulty hearing conversations. This is exactly what occurred during the “family dinner” example above, and it’s commonly an early signal of trouble with hearing.
- Specific words are difficult to understand. This warning sign usually pops up because consonants are starting to sound alike, or at least, becoming harder to differentiate. Usually, it’s the sh- and th- sounds that are garbled. But another typical example is when the “s” and “f” sounds become confused.
- Normal sounds seem oppressively loud. You may or may not encounter this but if you do, be aware that it can be an early warning of hearing loss. If you are experiencing this issue, especially if it persists, it’s time for a hearing exam.
- High-pitched sounds are hard to hear. Maybe you just noticed your teapot was screeching after five minutes. Or perhaps the doorbell rings, and you never notice it. Early hearing loss is normally most noticeable in particular (and often high-pitched) frequencies of sound.
- Someone notices that the volume on your media devices gets louder and louder. Maybe you keep turning up the volume on your cell phone. Or maybe, your TV speakers are maxed out. Typically, it’s a family member or a friend that notices the loud volumes.
- Your ears are ringing: 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 point to other health problems.
- It’s suddenly very difficult to understand phone calls: People do a lot of texting nowadays, so you may not talk on the phone as much as you once did. But if you’re having difficulty 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 often need people to repeat what they said. If you find yourself asking multiple people to speak slower, speak louder, or repeat what they said, this is especially true. This early sign of hearing loss could be occurring without you even noticing.
Next up: Take a test
No matter how many of these early warning signs you might encounter, there’s really only one way to know, with confidence, whether your hearing is diminishing: get a hearing exam.
Generally speaking, any single one of these early warning signs could be evidence that you’re developing some type of hearing loss. A hearing assessment will be able to tell what degree of impairment, if any, exists. Once we determine the degree of hearing loss, we can determine the best course of treatment.
This will help you have a much more enjoyable time at that next family gathering.