The last time you ate dinner with family, you were pretty aggravated. Not because of any intra-family episode (though there’s always a little bit of that). 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 job. It was frustrating. For the most part, you blame the acoustics. But you have to acknowledge that it may be a problem with your hearing.
It can be especially difficult to self-diagnose hearing loss (that’s why, generally, it’s not suggested). But you should watch for certain warnings. When enough red flags show up, it’s time to call us for a hearing assessment.
Hearing loss’s early signs
Not every symptom and sign of hearing loss is evident. But if you happen to see your own situation reflected in any of the items on this list, you just could be experiencing some degree of hearing loss.
Some of the most common early signs of hearing loss could include:
- Your ears are ringing: Ringing in your ears is known as tinnitus (and, technically, tinnitus can be other sounds as well: screeching, buzzing, humming, thumping, and so on). If you have ringing or other chronic noises in your ears, a hearing exam is your best bet because tinnitus, though it’s often an early warning of hearing loss, can also point to other health problems.
- You’re suddenly finding it hard to hear when you’re talking on the phone: Texting is popular nowadays, so you might not talk on the phone as much as you used to. But if you’re having trouble understanding the phone calls you do receive (even with the volume turned all the way up), you may be experiencing another red flag for your hearing.
- 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 might find yourself encountering its symptoms. If you are having this issue, particularly if it persists, it’s time for a hearing exam.
- You frequently need people to repeat what they said. If you find yourself asking multiple people to talk slower, talk louder, or repeat what they said, this is especially true. You might not even know you’re making such frequent requests, but it can definitely be an early sign of hearing impairment.
- You have a difficult time following conversations in a busy or noisy place. This is precisely what happened during the “family dinner” example above, and it’s often an early indication of trouble with hearing.
- Somebody notices that the volume on your media devices gets louder and louder. Maybe the volume on your cell 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, maybe your neighbor, or your friends.
- You notice it’s hard to make out certain words. This warning sign often pops up because consonants are beginning to sound alike, or at least, becoming harder to differentiate. Normally, it’s the sh- and th- sounds that are muffled. But another common example is when the “s” and “f” sounds become confused.
- High-pitched sounds are hard to hear. Perhaps you find your tea kettle has been screeching for five minutes but you didn’t notice it. Or maybe, you never even hear the doorbell ringing. Early hearing loss is usually most noticeable in particular (and often high-pitched) frequencies of sound.
Get a hearing test
No matter how many of these early red flags you might experience, there’s really only one way to know, with confidence, whether your hearing is diminishing: get a hearing exam.
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 will help you have a much more enjoyable time at that next family get-together.