Your last family dinner was frustrating. It wasn’t because of family crisis (this time). No, the problem was that you couldn’t hear a thing over the boisterous noise of the room. So you didn’t get the details about Nancy’s promotion, and you didn’t have a chance to ask about Todd’s new puppy. It was frustrating. For the most part, you blame the acoustics. But you have to acknowledge that it might be a problem with your hearing.
It’s not generally suggested to self diagnose hearing loss because it’s incredibly difficult to do. But you should keep your eye out for certain warnings. When enough red flags appear, it’s time to make an appointment with us for a hearing exam.
Hearing loss’s early signs
Not every symptom and sign of hearing loss is evident. But if you happen to see your own experiences reflected in any of the items on this list, you just could be experiencing some level of hearing loss.
Here are some of the most prevalent early signs of hearing loss:
- A friend points out that your media devices are getting increasingly louder. Maybe the volume on your cell phone keeps getting louder and louder. Or perhaps, you have your TV volume cranked up to max. Normally, you’re not the one that notices the loud volume, it’s your children, possibly your neighbor, or your friends.
- You’re suddenly finding it hard to hear when you’re talking on the phone: You might not talk on the phone as often as you used to because you use texting fairly often. But if you’re having trouble understanding the phone calls you do receive (even with the volume turned all the way up), you might be confronting another red flag for your hearing.
- You find that some sounds become unbearably loud. It’s one of the more uncommon early warning signs related to hearing loss, but hyperacusis is common enough that you might find yourself encountering its symptoms. If particular sounds become oppressively loud (especially if the problem doesn’t resolve itself in short order), that could be an early hearing loss symptom.
- You keep asking people to repeat themselves. This is especially true if you’re asking multiple people to slow down, say something again, or speak louder. This early sign of hearing impairment may be occurring without you even noticing.
- You have a difficult time following conversations in a crowded or noisy location. This is precisely what occurred during the “family dinner” example above, and it’s often an early signal of trouble with hearing.
- 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 maybe, you never even notice the doorbell ringing. Hearing loss usually affects specific frequencies usually higher pitched frequencies.
- Specific words are difficult to understand. This red flag frequently shows up because consonants are starting to sound alike, or at least, becoming more difficult to distinguish. The “sh” and “th” sounds are the most prevalent examples. Sometimes, it’s the s- and f-sounds or p- and t-sounds that get lost.
- You notice ringing in your ears: Ringing in your ears is known as tinnitus (and, technically, tinnitus can be other noises as well: 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 point to other health issues.
Next up: Take a exam
No matter how many of these early red flags you may encounter, there’s really only one way to know, with confidence, whether your hearing is diminishing: get a hearing test.
In general, 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 tell what degree of impairment, if any, exists. Once we identify 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.