Your last family dinner was frustrating. Not because of any intra-family episode (though there’s always some of that). No, the source of the stress was simple: it was noisy, and you couldn’t hear anything. So you didn’t get the opportunity to ask about Dave’s new kitten or Sally’s new career. And that was really irritating. You try to play it off as if the room’s acoustics are to blame. But you can’t totally discount the possibility 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 recommended). But you should keep your eye out for certain warnings. When enough red flags show up, it’s time to call us for a hearing exam.
Hearing loss’s early signs
Most of the symptoms of hearing loss are subtle. But if you happen to see your own experiences reflected in any of the items on this list, you just may be experiencing some degree of hearing loss.
Here are some of the most prevalent early signs of hearing loss:
- A friend notices that your media devices are getting progressively louder. Maybe you keep cranking up the volume on your cell phone. Or perhaps, you have your TV volume cranked up to max. Typically, it’s a family member or a friend that notices the loud volumes.
- It’s suddenly very difficult to make out phone calls: You may not talk on the phone as often as you used to because you use texting fairly often. But if you’re having difficulty understanding the phone calls you do get (even with the volume turned all the way up), you may be confronting another red flag for your hearing.
- 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 hear the doorbell ringing. Early hearing loss is usually most obvious in particular (and often high-pitched) frequencies of sound.
- You hear ringing in your ears: Ringing in your ears is known as tinnitus (and, technically, tinnitus can be other sounds as well: screeching, buzzing, humming, thumping, and so on). 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.
- 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 having this issue, especially if it persists, it’s time for a hearing test.
- Specific words are difficult to understand. This red flag often appears because consonants are starting to sound alike, or at least, becoming more difficult to distinguish. Normally, it’s the sh- and th- sounds that are garbled. In some cases, it’s the s- and f-sounds or p- and t-sounds that become conflated.
- When you’re in a busy noisy place, you have trouble hearing conversations. This is frequently an early indication of hearing loss.
- You frequently need people to repeat what they said. If you find yourself asking multiple people to talk slower, talk louder, or repeat what they said, this is especially true. You might not even recognize you’re making such frequent requests, but it can definitely be an early sign of hearing impairment.
Get a hearing assessment
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 assessment.
You might be experiencing hearing loss if you are noticing any one of these symptoms. A hearing assessment will be able to reveal what degree of impairment, if any, exists. Once we discover the level 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.