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The last time you had dinner with your family was a hard experience. It wasn’t because your family was having a difficult time getting along. No, the source of the frustration was simple: it was noisy, and you couldn’t hear anything. So you didn’t get the details about Judy’s promotion, and you didn’t have a chance to ask about Todd’s new cat. It was frustrating. You feel like the room’s acoustics played a big part. But you can’t totally dismiss the possibility that maybe your hearing is starting to go bad.

It’s not typically advisable to attempt to self diagnose hearing loss because it generally isn’t possible. But there are a few early warning signs you should keep your eye on. If some of these warning signs surface, it’s probably time to get your hearing examined.

Early Signs of Hearing Loss

Not every sign and symptom of hearing loss is obvious. But you might be dealing with some degree of hearing loss if you find yourself detecting some of these signs.

Here are some of the warning signs of hearing loss:

  • Certain words seem harder to hear than others. When consonants become hard to differentiate this red flag should go up. 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
  • Certain sounds seem so loud that they’re unbearable. This early warning sign is less common, but hyperacusis is common enough that you may find yourself encountering its symptoms. If distinct sounds become intolerably loud (especially if the issue doesn’t resolve itself in short order), that could be an early hearing loss symptom.
  • High pitched sounds are difficult to hear. Things like a whistling teapot or ringing doorbell sometimes go undetected for several minutes or more. Early hearing loss is normally most recognizable in specific (and often high-pitched) frequencies of sound.
  • Phone calls suddenly seem muffled and hard to understand: People do a lot of texting nowadays, so you may not take as many phone calls as you once did. But if you have the volume turned 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.
  • There’s a ringing in your ears: Ringing in your ears is known as tinnitus (and, technically, tinnitus can be other sounds also: thumping, buzzing, screeching, humming, and so on). Tinnitus is often an early warning sign of hearing loss, but not always so if your ears are ringing, a hearing exam is most likely in order.
  • You have a difficult time hearing interactions in a noisy or crowded place. This is exactly what occurred during the “family dinner” illustration above, and it’s often an early sign of hearing problems.
  • Someone makes you aware that you keep turning the volume up. Maybe the volume on your phone keeps getting louder and louder. Maybe it’s your TV that’s at max volume. Typically, it’s a friend, neighbor, or a family member that makes you recognize the increasing volumes.
  • You keep needing people to repeat themselves. If you find yourself repeatedly asking people to speak up, repeat what they said, or slow down when they speak, this is particularly true. You may not even recognize you’re making such frequent requests, but it can certainly be an early sign of diminishing hearing.
  • Next Up: Get a Test

    You still can’t be certain whether you’re confronting hearing loss even if you are encountering some of these early warning signs. You will need to get a hearing test to know for sure.

    You might very well be experiencing some level 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 evaluation. Then it will become more clear what has to be done about it.

    This means your next family gathering can be a lot more enjoyable.

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