Man with hearing loss trying to hear at the dinner table with his family.

The last time you had dinner with your family was a difficult experience. Not because of any intra-family drama (though there’s always some of that). No, the source of the frustration was simple: it was loud, and you couldn’t hear a thing. So you didn’t get the details about Judy’s promotion, and you didn’t have a chance to ask about Jay’s new puppy. It was frustrating. Mostly, you blame the acoustics. But you can’t totally dismiss the possibility that maybe your hearing is starting to go bad.

It can be incredibly difficult to self-diagnose hearing loss (that’s why, generally, it’s not advisable). But there are some early warning signs you should keep your eye on. When enough of these red flags surface, it’s worth scheduling an appointment to get checked by a hearing professional.

Early Signs of Hearing Loss

Not every sign and symptom of hearing loss is obvious. But you could be dealing with some amount of hearing loss if you find yourself recognizing some of these signs.

Some of the most common early signs of hearing impairment might include:

  • High pitched sounds are hard to hear. Maybe you find your teapot has been whistling for five minutes without your knowledge. Or perhaps the doorbell rings, and you never notice it. Distinct frequencies (often high pitched) will typically be the first to go with early hearing loss.
  • There’s a ringing in your ears: This ringing, which can also be the sound of screeching, thumping, buzzing, or other noises, is technically called tinnitus. Tinnitus is often an early warning sign of hearing loss, but not always so if you have a ringing in your ears, a hearing test is probably in order.
  • You often need people to repeat what they said. If you find yourself continually asking people to speak up, repeat what they said, or slow down when they speak, this is particularly true. Often, you may not even recognize how often this is occurring and you may miss this warning sign.
  • Phone calls suddenly seem muffled and difficult to comprehend: People do a lot of texting these days, so you might not take as many phone calls as you once did. But if you have the volume cranked all the way up on your phone and you’re still having difficulty hearing calls, it’s most likely an early warning of hearing loss.
  • Someone makes you realize that you keep turning up the volume on your media. Maybe you keep turning up the volume on your mobile phone. Maybe it’s your TV that’s at full volume. Typically, it’s a friend, neighbor, or a family member that makes you recognize the escalating volumes.
  • You have a hard time following interactions in a crowded or noisy place. This is exactly what occurred during the “family dinner” example above, and it’s typically an early sign of trouble with hearing.
  • You find it’s tough to understand particular words. This warning sign often appears because consonants are starting to sound similar, or, at least, becoming difficult to differentiate. The th- and sh- sounds are very commonly muffled. It can also often be the p- and t- sounds or the s- and f- sounds
  • You find that some sounds become unbearably loud. It’s one of the more unusual early warning signs related to hearing loss, but hyperacusis is common enough that you may find yourself encountering its symptoms. It can be an early sign of hearing loss if certain sounds seem really loud especially if it lasts for an extended period of time.
  • Next Up: Take a Examination

    No matter how many of these early warning signs you may encounter, there’s really only one way to recognize, with certainty, whether your hearing is going bad: get your hearing tested.

    Broadly speaking, even one of these early warning signs could be evidence that you’re developing some kind of hearing loss. A hearing test will be able to tell what level of impairment, if any, exists. Then it will become more evident what needs to be done about it.

    This will make your next family gathering a lot smoother and more enjoyable.

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    The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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