Your last family dinner was disheartening. Not because of any intra-family drama (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 anything. So you didn’t hear the details about Nancy’s promotion, and you didn’t have a chance to ask about Todd’s new dog. It was frustrating. Mostly, you blame the acoustics. But you can’t totally discount the idea that perhaps your hearing is starting to fail.
It can be especially challenging to self-diagnose hearing loss (that’s why, generally, it’s not suggested). But there are some early warning signs you should watch for. When enough of these red flags spring up, it’s worth scheduling an appointment to get a hearing exam.
Hearing loss’s early signs
The majority of the symptoms of hearing loss are subtle. But if you happen to see your own situation reflected in any of the items on this list, you just may be experiencing some level of hearing loss.
Here are some of the most common early signs of hearing loss:
- You have trouble hearing high-pitched sounds. Perhaps you find your tea kettle has been screeching for five minutes but you didn’t notice it. Or perhaps, you never even notice the doorbell ringing. Early hearing loss is usually most obvious in particular (and often high-pitched) frequencies of sound.
- A friend notices that your media devices are getting increasingly louder. Maybe you keep turning up the volume on your cell phone. Or perhaps, your TV speakers are maxed out. Usually, you’re not the one that notices the loud volume, it’s your kids, possibly your neighbor, or your friends.
- You frequently need people to repeat what they said. This is particularly true if you’re asking numerous people to speak slower, say something again, or speak up. You may not even realize you’re making such frequent requests, but it can definitely be an early sign of hearing impairment.
- When you’re in a busy noisy place, you have trouble hearing conversations. This is exactly what happened during the “family dinner” example above, and it’s commonly an early indication of trouble with hearing.
- You’re suddenly finding it difficult 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 red flag often shows up because consonants are beginning to sound similar, or at least, becoming more difficult to distinguish. The “sh” and “th” sounds are the most prevalent examples. In some cases, it’s the s- and f-sounds or p- and t-sounds that get lost.
- 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). Tinnitus isn’t always associated with hearing problems, but it is frequently an early warning sign of hearing loss, so a hearing exam is probably in order.
- Normal sounds seem unbearably loud. You may or may not experience this but if you do, remember that it can be an early warning of hearing loss. If you are experiencing this issue, especially if it persists, it’s time for a hearing test.
Next up: Take a test
You may have one or more of these early warnings but the only real way to determine the health of your hearing is to get a hearing assessment.
Generally speaking, any single one of these early warning signs could indicate that you’re developing some kind of hearing impairment. A hearing evaluation will be able to reveal what level of impairment, if any, exists. And then you’ll be better prepared to determine the right treatment.
This will help you have a much more enjoyable time at that next family gathering.