The last time you had dinner with family, you were rather aggravated. Not because of any intra-family drama (though there’s always a little bit of that). No, the issue was that you couldn’t hear a thing 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 job. It was frustrating. Mostly, you blame the acoustics. But you can’t completely discount the idea that maybe your hearing is beginning to go bad.
It’s not usually recommended to self diagnose hearing loss because it’s truly difficult to do. But there are some early warning signs you should keep on your radar. When enough red flags show up, it’s time to call us for a hearing exam.
Hearing loss’s early signs
Not every symptom and sign of hearing loss is noticeable. But if you happen to see your own experiences reflected in any of the items on this list, you just may be experiencing some degree of hearing loss.
Here are some of the most common early signs of hearing loss:
- Someone notices that the volume on your media devices gets louder and louder. Perhaps the volume on your mobile phone keeps getting louder and louder. Or maybe, your TV speakers are as loud as they go. Normally, you’re not the one that observes the loud volume, it’s your kids, possibly your neighbor, or your friends.
- Specific words are hard to understand. This warning sign often appears because consonants are beginning to sound similar, or at least, becoming more difficult to distinguish. The “sh” and “th” sounds are the most common examples. In some cases, it’s the s- and f-sounds or p- and t-sounds that become conflated.
- Normal sounds seem unbearably loud. You may or may not experience this but if you do, remember that it can be an early warning of hearing loss. If particular sounds become oppressively loud (particularly if the problem doesn’t resolve itself in short order), that may be an early hearing loss symptom.
- You have difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds. Perhaps you find your tea kettle has been whistling for five minutes without your knowledge. Or maybe, you never even notice the doorbell ringing. Hearing loss usually impacts particular frequencies usually higher pitched frequencies.
- You have a difficult time hearing conversations in a busy or noisy place. This is precisely what happened during the “family dinner” example above, and it’s often an early sign of trouble with hearing.
- You’re suddenly finding it difficult to hear when you’re talking on the phone: Texting is popular nowadays, so you may not talk on the phone as much as you used to. But if you’re having trouble understanding the phone calls you do get (even with the volume turned all the way up), you might be experiencing another red flag for your hearing.
- You frequently need people to repeat what they said. If you find yourself asking numerous people to speak slower, talk louder, or repeat what they said, this is especially true. You may not even realize you’re making such frequent requests, but it can certainly be an early sign of hearing impairment.
- Your ears are ringing: Ringing in your ears is known as tinnitus (and, technically, tinnitus can be other noises as well: humming, buzzing, screeching, thumping, and so on). Tinnitus isn’t always associated with hearing problems, but it is frequently an early warning sign of hearing loss, so a hearing exam is probably in order.
Get a hearing assessment
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.
You may be experiencing hearing loss if you are experiencing any one of these symptoms. A hearing assessment will be able to tell what level of impairment, if any, exists. And then you’ll be better equipped to find the right treatment.
This means your next family gathering can be much more fun.