The last time you ate dinner with your family was a hard experience. Not because of any intra-family drama (though there’s always a bit of that). No, the source of the difficulty was simple: it was noisy, and you couldn’t hear a thing. So you weren’t able to have very much enjoyable conversation with any members of your family. The whole experience was extremely aggravating. For the most part, you blame the acoustics. But you can’t completely dismiss the possibility that maybe your hearing is beginning to go bad.
It isn’t generally advisable to attempt to self diagnose hearing loss because it generally isn’t possible. But there are some early warning signs you should keep on your radar. When enough of these red flags emerge, it’s worth making an appointment to get checked by a hearing specialist.
Early Signs of Hearing Loss
Several of the symptoms of hearing loss are subtle. But if you should find your own experiences reflected in any of the items on the following list, you just might be experiencing some amount of hearing loss.
Here are some of the warning signs of hearing loss:
Phone calls suddenly seem muffled and difficult to understand: These days, due to texting, we use the phone much less than we used to. But if you have the volume turned all the way up on your phone and you’re still having difficulty hearing calls, it’s probably an early warning of hearing loss.
You have difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds. Maybe you find your teapot has been whistling for five minutes and you didn’t hear it. Or perhaps the doorbell rings, and you never detect it. Particular frequencies (frequently high pitched) will usually be the first to fade with early hearing loss.
When you’re in a loud crowded place, conversations tend to get lost. In the “family dinner” illustration above, this exact thing occurred and it’s certainly an early warning sign.
You experience some ringing in your ears: Ringing in your ears is called tinnitus (and, technically, tinnitus can be other sounds also: screeching, buzzing, humming, thumping, and so on). Tinnitus is often an early warning sign of hearing loss, but not always so if you have a ringing in your ears, a hearing exam is most likely in order.
Someone observes that the volume on your media devices gets louder and louder. Maybe you keep turning up the volume on your mobile device. Possibly it’s your TV that’s at full volume. Typically, it’s a friend, neighbor, or a member of your family that makes you recognize the escalating volumes.
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 experiencing 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 find it’s difficult to comprehend particular words. This red flag frequently appears because consonants are starting to sound similar, or, at least, becoming difficult to differentiate. The th- and sh- sounds are very commonly muffled. Sometimes, it’s the s- and f-sounds or p- and t-sounds that become conflated.
You keep needing people to repeat what they said. If you find yourself continually asking people to speak up, repeat themselves, or slow down when they talk, this is especially true. Often, you might not even acknowledge how frequently this is occurring and you may miss this warning sign.
It’s Time to Get a Hearing Test
Regardless of how many of these early warning signs you might experience, there’s really only one way to recognize, with certainty, whether your hearing is fading: get your hearing tested.
You might very well be experiencing some amount of hearing loss even if you’re only experiencing one of these early warning signs. A hearing assessment will be able to tell what level of impairment, if any, is present. And then you’ll be better equipped to find the best treatment.
This means your next family gathering can be much more enjoyable.