Do You Need a Hearing Test? Here’s What You Should Know

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

Your last family get together was discouraging. Not because of any intra-family drama (though there’s always some of that). The problem was the noise, which was making it hard to hear anything. So you didn’t hear the details about Judy’s promotion, and you didn’t have a chance to ask about Todd’s new puppy. It was irritating. Mostly, you blame the acoustics. But you can’t entirely ignore the possibility that maybe your hearing is starting to go bad.

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

Early Signs of Hearing Loss

Several of the signs of hearing loss are subtle. But you could be going through some degree of hearing loss if you find yourself recognizing some of these signs.

Some of the most prevalent early signs of bad hearing might include:

  • 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 used to. But if you have the volume cranked all the way up on your phone and you’re still having trouble hearing calls, it’s probably an early warning of hearing loss.
  • Certain sounds seem so loud that they’re unbearable. This early warning sign is less common, but hyperacusis is common enough that you might find yourself encountering its symptoms. If specific sounds become intolerably loud (especially if the issue doesn’t resolve itself in short order), that could be an early hearing loss symptom.
  • When you’re in a loud crowded place, conversations often get lost. This is precisely what happened during the “family dinner” example above, and it’s often an early sign of hearing problems.
  • You notice some ringing in your ears: Ringing in your ears is called tinnitus (and, actually, tinnitus can be other sounds also: thumping, buzzing, screeching, humming, and so on). Tinnitus isn’t always associated with hearing issues, but it is often an early warning sign of hearing loss, so a hearing exam is most likely in order.
  • High pitched sounds are difficult to hear. Things like a ringing doorbell or a whistling teapot sometimes go unnoticed for several minutes or more. Particular frequencies (frequently high pitched) will typically be the first to go with early hearing loss.
  • Someone makes you realize that you keep turning the volume up. Perhaps the volume on your phone keeps getting louder and louder. Or maybe your TV speakers are as loud as they will go. Usually, you’re not the one that observes the loud volume, it’s your kids, maybe your neighbor, or your friends.
  • You keep needing people to repeat what they said. This is particularly true if you’re asking several people to slow down, repeat what they said, or talk louder. Often, you might not even notice how frequently this is occurring and you might miss this red flag.
  • Certain words seem harder to hear than others. This warning sign frequently appears because consonants are beginning to sound similar, or, at least, becoming harder to differentiate. The th- and sh- sounds are very commonly muffled. At times, it’s the s- and f-sounds or p- and t-sounds that become conflated.
  • Next Up: Take a Test

    No matter how many of these early warning signs you might encounter, there’s really only one way to know, with certainty, whether your hearing is going bad: get your hearing tested.

    You might very well be going through some amount of hearing loss even if you’re only noticing one of these early warning signs. A hearing assessment will be able to tell what level of impairment, if any, is present. Then it will become more obvious what needs to be done about it.

    This will make your next family get together a lot easier and more fun.

    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.