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The last time you had dinner with your family was a difficult experience. It wasn’t because your family was having a difficult time getting along. No, the source of the difficulty was simple: it was noisy, and you couldn’t hear anything. So you weren’t able to have very much enjoyable conversation with any of your family members. The whole experience was extremely aggravating. Mostly, you blame the acoustics. But you can’t completely discount the possibility that maybe your hearing is starting to go bad.

It can be very challenging to self-diagnose hearing loss (that’s why, typically, it’s not recommended). But you should keep your eye out for some early warning signs. When enough of these red flags emerge, it’s worth scheduling an appointment to get examined by a hearing specialist.

Early Signs of Hearing Loss

Some of the signs of hearing loss are subtle. But you might be experiencing some amount of hearing loss if you find yourself recognizing some of these signs.

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

  • You notice it’s hard to understand particular words. This warning sign frequently pops up 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
  • When you’re in a noisy crowded place, conversations tend to get lost. In the “family dinner” illustration above, this specific thing happened and it’s certainly an early warning sign.
  • You keep asking people to repeat what they said. If you find yourself repeatedly asking people to speak up, repeat what they said, or slow down when they speak, this is especially true. Sometimes, you might not even acknowledge how frequently this is happening and you might miss this warning sign.
  • Phone calls suddenly seem muffled and hard to understand: People do a lot of texting these days, so you may not take as many phone calls as you used to. But if you have the volume turned all the way up on your phone and you’re still having difficulty hearing calls, it’s probably an early warning of hearing loss.
  • You hear some that your ears are ringing: This ringing, which can also be the sound of thumping, screeching, buzzing, or other sounds, 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 exam is most likely in order.
  • 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 detect it. Distinct frequencies (often high pitched) will typically be the first to fade with early hearing loss.
  • Someone notices that the volume on your media devices gets louder and louder. Perhaps you keep turning up the volume on your mobile device. Maybe it’s your TV that’s at max volume. Usually, you’re not the one that notices the loud volume, it’s your kids, maybe your neighbor, or your friends.
  • You notice that certain sounds become unbearably loud. This early warning sign is less common, but hyperacusis is common enough that you may find yourself experiencing its symptoms. It can be an early sign of hearing loss if certain sounds seem really loud particularly if it lasts for an extended period of time.
  • Next Up: Get a Examination

    No matter how many of these early warning signs you may experience, there’s really only one way to know, with certainty, whether your hearing is fading: get a hearing test.

    You might very well be going through some amount of hearing loss even if you’re only experiencing one of these early warning signs. What level of hearing loss you may be dealing with can only be established with a hearing examination. And then you’ll be better equipped to get the correct treatment.

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

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