Your last family get-together was frustrating. Not because of any intra-family episode (though there’s always a little bit of that). No, the problem was that you couldn’t hear anything over the boisterous noise of the room. So you didn’t hear the details about Nancy’s raise, and you didn’t have the ability to ask about Todd’s new puppy. It was difficult. You try to play it off as if the room’s acoustics are to blame. But you can’t completely dismiss the idea that perhaps your hearing is beginning to fail.
It can be extremely challenging to self-diagnose hearing loss (that’s why, typically, it’s not suggested). But there are some early red flags you should watch for. When enough red flags show up, it’s time to contact us for a hearing test.
Early signs of hearing impairment
Most of the symptoms of hearing loss are subtle. But you could be dealing with hearing loss if you can connect with any of the items on this list.
Here are some of the most common early signs of hearing loss:
- High-pitched sounds are getting lost. Perhaps you just noticed your teapot was screeching after five minutes. Or perhaps, you never even notice the doorbell ringing. Early hearing loss is normally most noticeable in particular (and often high-pitched) frequencies of sound.
- You frequently need people to repeat what they said. If you find yourself asking multiple people to speak more slowly, speak louder, or repeat what they said, this is particularly true. This early sign of hearing impairment could be happening without you even noticing.
- Your ears are ringing: Ringing in your ears is called tinnitus (and, technically, tinnitus can be other sounds too: humming, buzzing, screeching, thumping, and so on). If you have 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 issues.
- You’re suddenly finding it difficult to hear when you’re talking on the phone: You might not talk on the phone as often as you once did because you use texting pretty often. But if you’re having trouble understanding the phone calls you do get (even with the volume turned all the way up), you might be experiencing another red flag for your hearing.
- Somebody notices that the volume on your media devices is getting louder. Perhaps 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 children, possibly your neighbor, or your friends.
- You discover it’s difficult to understand certain words. This symptom occurs when consonants become difficult to hear and distinguish. Normally, it’s the sh- and th- sounds that are muffled. But another common example is when the “s” and “f” sounds get mixed up.
- You find that some sounds become oppressively loud. It’s one of the more uncommon early warning signs associated with hearing loss, but hyperacusis is common enough that you may find yourself encountering its symptoms. If you are experiencing this problem, particularly if it lingers, it’s time for a hearing exam.
- You have a difficult time following conversations in a crowded or noisy place. This is exactly what happened during the “family dinner” example above, and it’s frequently an early signal of trouble with hearing.
Get a hearing assessment
You might 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.
In general, any single one of these early warning signs could be evidence that you’re developing some type of hearing impairment. A hearing evaluation will be able to reveal what degree of impairment, if any, exists. Once we discover the degree of hearing loss, we can figure out the best course of treatment.
This will help you have a much more enjoyable time at that next family get-together.