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

The last time you ate dinner with your family was a hard experience. Not because of any intra-family drama (though there’s always a little bit of that). The issue was the noise, which was making it hard to hear anything. So you weren’t able to have very much meaningful conversation with any members of your family. It was frustrating. Mostly, you blame the acoustics. But you’re also willing to admit that your hearing could be starting to go.

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

Early Signs of Hearing Loss

Several of the symptoms of hearing loss are subtle. But if you happen to find yourself noticing any of the items on the following list, you just might be dealing with some amount of hearing loss.

Some of the most prevalent early signs of hearing impairment may include:

  • When you’re in a loud crowded place, conversations often get lost. In the “family dinner” example above, this specific thing happened and it’s definitely an early warning sign.
  • You keep needing people to repeat what they said. If you find yourself continually asking people to speak up, repeat themselves, or slow down when they talk, this is particularly true. You may not even realize you’re making such frequent requests, but it can definitely be an early sign of diminishing hearing.
  • It’s suddenly very hard to understand phone calls: Today, because of texting, we use the phone much less than we used to. But if you’re having trouble comprehending the phone calls you do get (even with the volume cranked all the way up), you may be confronting another red flag for your hearing.
  • Someone makes you aware that you keep turning up the volume on your media. Maybe the volume on your phone keeps getting louder and louder. Or maybe your TV speakers are maxed out. In most cases, you’re not the one that notices the loud volume, it’s your children, maybe your neighbor, or your friends.
  • You notice that certain sounds become intolerably loud. This early warning sign is less common, but hyperacusis is common enough that you may find yourself encountering its symptoms. If specific sounds become unbearably loud (especially if the issue doesn’t resolve itself in short order), that could be an early hearing loss symptom.
  • You notice it’s difficult to understand certain words. This red flag frequently pops up because consonants are beginning to sound similar, or, at least, becoming harder to differentiate. Normally, it’s the sh- and th- sounds that are muffled. It can also commonly be the p- and t- sounds or the s- and f- sounds
  • High pitched sounds are hard to hear. Things like a ringing doorbell or a whistling teapot frequently go unnoticed for several minutes or more. Early hearing loss is normally most recognizable in specific (and frequently high-pitched) frequencies of sound.
  • You notice some that your ears are ringing: Ringing in your ears is known as tinnitus (and, technically, tinnitus can be other sounds too: thumping, buzzing, screeching, humming, and so on). Tinnitus is frequently an early warning sign of hearing loss, but not always so if your ears are ringing, a hearing test is most likely in order.

Next Up: Get a Exam

Regardless of how many of these early warning signs you might encounter, there’s really only one way to recognize, with certainty, whether your hearing is fading: get a hearing test.

In general, even one of these early warning signs could be an indication that you’re developing some kind of hearing impairment. What level of hearing loss you might be dealing with can only be established with a hearing assessment. Then it will become more clear what needs to be done about it.

This means your next family gathering can be much 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.