Your last family get-together was disheartening. Not because of any intra-family episode (though there’s always a little bit of that). No, the source of the stress was simple: it was noisy, and you couldn’t hear a thing. So you didn’t get the opportunity to ask about Dave’s new cat or Sally’s new career. And that was really irritating. You try to play it off as if the room’s acoustics are the problem. But you have to acknowledge that it might be an issue with your hearing.
It can be incredibly challenging to self-diagnose hearing loss (that’s why, generally, it’s not suggested). But you should keep your eye out 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 obvious. But you may be dealing with hearing loss if you can relate to any of the items on this list.
Some of the most common early signs of hearing loss could include:
- Your ears are ringing: Ringing in your ears is called tinnitus (and, technically, tinnitus can be other sounds as well: screeching, buzzing, humming, thumping, and so on). If you experience ringing or other chronic noises in your ears, a hearing exam is your best bet because tinnitus, though it’s frequently an early warning of hearing loss, can also indicate other health problems.
- You have trouble hearing high-pitched sounds. Maybe you just noticed your teapot was whistling after five minutes. Or perhaps, you never even notice the doorbell ringing. Early hearing loss is typically most apparent in specific (and often high-pitched) frequencies of sound.
- Someone notices that the volume on your media devices gets louder and louder. Maybe you keep turning the volume up on your mobile phone. Or perhaps, you have your TV volume cranked up to max. Typically, it’s a family member or a friend that points out the loud volumes.
- You’re suddenly finding it hard to hear when you’re talking on the phone: You may not talk on the phone as often as you used to because you use texting pretty often. But you might be experiencing another early warning sign if you’re having trouble understanding the calls you do take.
- Certain words are hard to understand. This symptom happens when consonants become hard to hear and differentiate. Normally, it’s the sh- and th- sounds that are muffled. In some cases, it’s the s- and f-sounds or p- and t-sounds that get lost.
- Normal sounds seem unbearably loud. It’s one of the more unusual early warning signs associated with hearing loss, but hyperacusis is common enough that you might find yourself encountering its symptoms. If you are experiencing this problem, especially if it lingers, it’s time for a hearing test.
- When you’re in a crowded noisy setting, you have trouble following conversations. This is precisely what occurred during the “family dinner” example above, and it’s frequently an early sign of trouble with hearing.
- You keep requesting that people repeat themselves. This is especially true if you’re asking numerous people to speak slower, say something again, or speak louder. This early sign of hearing impairment may be happening without you even noticing.
Next up: Take a exam
No matter how many of these early red flags you may experience, there’s really only one way to know, with certainty, whether your hearing is diminishing: get a hearing test.
You may be dealing with hearing loss if you are noticing any one of these symptoms. And if any impairment you may have, a hearing evaluation will be able to tell you how bad it is. Once we identify the degree of hearing loss, we can determine the best course of treatment.
This means your next family gathering can be much more enjoyable.