The last time you had dinner with family, you were quite aggravated. It wasn’t because of family drama (this time). No, the problem was that you couldn’t hear anything over the boisterous noise of the room. So you didn’t get the details about Nancy’s raise, and you didn’t have a chance to ask about Todd’s new puppy. It was frustrating. You try to play it off as if the acoustics of the room are the problem. But you can’t completely dismiss the idea that perhaps your hearing is starting to go bad.
It’s not usually recommended to self diagnose hearing loss because it’s extremely difficult to do. But you should keep your eye out for certain warnings. When enough of these red flags spring up, it’s worth scheduling an appointment to get a hearing exam.
Early signs of hearing impairment
Most of the symptoms of hearing loss are subtle. But you might be dealing with hearing loss if you can connect with any of the items on this list.
Here are some of the most prevalent early signs of hearing loss:
- You keep asking people to repeat themselves. If you find yourself asking multiple people to speak more slowly, talk louder, or repeat what they said, this is particularly true. This early sign of hearing loss could be occurring without you even noticing.
- High-pitched sounds are getting lost. Maybe you find your tea kettle has been screeching for five minutes without your knowledge. Or maybe, you never even notice the doorbell ringing. Early hearing loss is typically most obvious in particular (and often high-pitched) frequencies of sound.
- You find that some sounds become oppressively loud. It’s one of the more unusual early warning signs linked to hearing loss, but hyperacusis is common enough that you might find yourself experiencing its symptoms. If particular sounds become unbearably loud (especially if the problem doesn’t go away in short order), that may be an early hearing loss symptom.
- Specific words are difficult to understand. This symptom takes place when consonants become difficult to hear and differentiate. The “sh” and “th” sounds are the most prevalent examples. But another common example is when the “s” and “f” sounds get mixed up.
- A friend points out that your media devices are getting progressively louder. Perhaps you keep cranking up the volume on your cell phone. Or maybe, your TV speakers are as loud as they go. Typically, it’s a family member or a friend that notices the loud volumes.
- You notice ringing in your ears: Ringing in your ears is called tinnitus (and, technically, tinnitus can be other noises as well: screeching, buzzing, humming, thumping, and so on). If you experience ringing or other chronic noises in your ears, a hearing test is your best bet because tinnitus, though it’s often an early warning of hearing impairment, can also indicate other health problems.
- You have a hard time hearing conversations in a crowded or noisy place. This is exactly what happened during the “family dinner” example above, and it’s often an early indication of trouble with hearing.
- It’s suddenly very hard to make out phone calls: People do a lot of texting these days, 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 may be experiencing another red flag for your hearing.
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 diminishing: get a hearing test.
Generally speaking, any single one of these early warning signs could be evidence that you’re developing some type of hearing impairment. And if any impairment you may have, a hearing evaluation will be able to identify how bad it is. And then you’ll be better equipped to find the correct treatment.
This will help you have a much more enjoyable time at that next family gathering.