The last time you ate dinner with your family was a difficult experience. Not because of any intra-family drama (though there’s always a bit of that). The problem was the noise, which was making it hard to hear anything. So you didn’t get the details about Nancy’s promotion, and you didn’t have a chance to ask about Jay’s new puppy. It was frustrating. You feel like the room’s acoustics played a big part. But you’re also willing to admit that your hearing could be starting to wane.
It can be extremely challenging to self-diagnose hearing loss (that’s why, typically, it’s not advisable). But there are a few early warning signs you should keep your eye on. If some of these warning signs develop, it’s probably time to have your hearing checked.
Hearing Loss Has Some Early Warning Signs
Several of the symptoms of hearing loss are subtle. But if you happen to find your own experiences reflected in any of the items on the following list, you just may be experiencing some level of hearing loss.
Some of the most common early signs of bad hearing may include:
You have a tough time hearing conversations in a noisy or crowded place. In the “family dinner” illustration above, this exact thing occurred and it’s definitely an early warning sign.
Certain sounds seem so loud that they’re intolerable. It’s one of the more unusual early warning signs associated with hearing loss, but hyperacusis is common enough that you may find yourself encountering its symptoms. It can be an early sign of hearing loss if certain sounds seem really loud particularly if it lasts for an extended period of time.
You often need people to repeat what they said. This is especially true if you’re asking multiple people to slow down, repeat what they said, or talk louder. You may not even notice you’re making such frequent requests, but it can certainly be an early sign of diminishing hearing.
Someone makes you aware that you keep turning up the volume on your media. Perhaps you keep turning up the volume on your mobile device. Maybe it’s your TV that’s at full volume. Usually, it’s a friend, neighbor, or a member of your family that makes you aware of the escalating volumes.
There’s a ringing in your ears: Ringing in your ears is called tinnitus (and, actually, tinnitus can be other sounds too: screeching, buzzing, humming, thumping, and so on). Tinnitus isn’t always associated with hearing problems, but it is often an early warning sign of hearing loss, so a hearing exam is most likely in order.
You have difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds. Things like a whistling teapot or ringing doorbell frequently go undetected for several minutes or more. Distinct frequencies (often high pitched) will typically be the first to go with early hearing loss.
Some words seem harder to hear than others. When consonants become difficult to differentiate this red flag should go up. Usually, it’s the sh- and th- sounds that are muffled. At times, it’s the s- and f-sounds or p- and t-sounds that become conflated.
- It’s suddenly very hard to understand phone calls: These days, because of texting, we use the phone a lot less than we once did. But if you have the volume turned all the way up on your phone and you’re still having difficulty hearing calls, it’s most likely an early warning of hearing loss.
Next Up: Take a Exam
No matter how many of these early warning signs you may encounter, there’s really only one way to recognize, with certainty, whether your hearing is fading: get your hearing tested.
You might very well be going through some level of hearing loss even if you’re only experiencing one of these early warning signs. A hearing examination will be able to tell what level of impairment, if any, exists. And then you’ll be better equipped to find the proper treatment.
This will make your next family get together a lot easier and more enjoyable.