Your last family dinner was frustrating. 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 loud, and you couldn’t hear anything. So you didn’t get the chance to ask about Dave’s new kitten or Sally’s new job. And that was really irritating. You try to play it off as if the acoustics of the room are to blame. But you can’t totally dismiss the idea that maybe your hearing is beginning to fail.
It can be incredibly challenging to self-diagnose hearing loss (that’s why, generally, it’s not recommended). But you should keep your eye out for certain warning signs. When enough of these red flags pop up, it’s worth scheduling an appointment to get a hearing test.
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 connect with any of the items on this list.
Some of the most common initial signs of hearing impairment may include:
- When you’re in a crowded loud place, you have difficulty following conversations. This is often an early sign of hearing loss.
- You notice it’s hard to make out particular words. This red flag usually appears because consonants are starting to sound similar, or at least, becoming harder to distinguish. The “sh” and “th” sounds are the most common examples. Sometimes, it’s the s- and f-sounds or p- and t-sounds that become conflated.
- High-pitched sounds are hard to hear. Maybe you find your tea kettle has been screeching for five minutes without your knowledge. Or perhaps the doorbell rings, and you don’t notice it. Early hearing loss is usually most apparent in particular (and often high-pitched) frequencies of sound.
- You keep asking people to repeat themselves. This is especially true if you’re asking numerous people to slow down, say something again, or speak up. This early sign of hearing loss may be happening without you even noticing.
- A friend points out that your media devices are getting increasingly louder. Perhaps you keep cranking up the volume on your mobile phone. Or maybe, you have your TV volume turned up to max. Normally, you’re not the one that observes the loud volume, it’s your kids, possibly your neighbor, or your friends.
- Normal sounds seem unbearably loud. You may or may not encounter this but if you do, keep in mind that it can be an early warning of hearing loss. If you are having this issue, particularly if it persists, it’s time for a hearing exam.
- Your ears are ringing: This ringing (it can actually be other sounds too) is known as tinnitus. If you have ringing or other chronic sounds in your ears, a hearing test is your best bet because tinnitus, though it’s often an early warning of hearing loss, can also indicate other health issues.
- It’s suddenly very hard to understand phone calls: You might not talk on the phone as often as you once did because you use texting pretty often. But if you’re having difficulty understanding the phone calls you do receive (even with the volume turned all the way up), you might be confronting another red flag for your hearing.
Next up: Take a test
You may have one or more of these early warnings but the only real way to know the health of your hearing is to get a hearing test.
You might be experiencing hearing loss if you are experiencing any one of these symptoms. A hearing assessment will be able to tell what degree of impairment, if any, exists. And then you’ll be better equipped to find the best treatment.
This means your next family gathering can be much more enjoyable.