Your last family dinner was disheartening. It wasn’t because of family crisis (this time). No, the cause of the stress was simple: it was noisy, and you couldn’t hear a thing. So you didn’t get the details about Nancy’s promotion, and you didn’t have a chance to ask about Todd’s new dog. And that was really irritating. For the most part, you blame the acoustics. But you can’t completely discount the idea that perhaps your hearing is beginning to fail.
It’s not generally recommended to self diagnose hearing loss because it’s extremely challenging to do. 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.
Hearing loss’s early signs
Most of the symptoms of hearing loss are subtle. But if you happen to see your own situation reflected in any of the items on the following list, you just could be experiencing some level of hearing loss.
Here are some of the most common early signs of hearing loss:
- You notice it’s difficult to make out certain words. This symptom takes place when consonants become hard to hear and distinguish. Usually, it’s the sh- and th- sounds that are muffled. Sometimes, it’s the s- and f-sounds or p- and t-sounds that become conflated.
- Someone notices that the volume on your media devices gets louder and louder. Maybe you keep turning up the volume on your cell phone. Or perhaps, you have your TV volume turned up to max. Usually, it’s a family member or a friend that points out the loud volumes.
- You have trouble hearing high-pitched sounds. Maybe you just noticed your teapot was whistling after five minutes. Or maybe, you never even notice the doorbell ringing. Early hearing loss is usually most obvious in specific (and often high-pitched) frequencies of sound.
- You frequently need people to repeat what they said. This is particularly true if you’re asking multiple people to slow down, say something again, or speak louder. You may not even realize you’re making such frequent requests, but it can certainly be an early sign of diminishing hearing.
- Normal sounds seem unbearably loud. You may or may not experience this but if you do, be aware that it can be an early warning of hearing loss. If particular sounds become oppressively loud (especially if the problem doesn’t resolve itself in short order), that could be an early hearing loss indicator.
- 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 pretty often. But if you’re having difficulty understanding the phone calls you do get (even with the volume turned all the way up), you might be confronting another red flag for your hearing.
- You hear ringing in your ears: This ringing (it can actually be other sounds too) is known as tinnitus. If you experience ringing or other chronic noises in your ears, a hearing exam is your best bet because tinnitus, though it’s often an early warning of hearing impairment, can also point to other health problems.
- When you’re in a busy loud place, you have difficulty hearing conversations. This is precisely what occurred during the “family dinner” example above, and it’s frequently an early signal of trouble with hearing.
Get a hearing test
No matter how many of these early red flags you might encounter, there’s really only one way to know, with certainty, whether your hearing is diminishing: get a hearing exam.
Generally speaking, any single one of these early red flags could be evidence that you’re developing some kind of hearing loss. And if any impairment exists, a hearing evaluation will be able to tell you how bad it is. Once we identify 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.