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Your last family get together was discouraging. Not because of any intra-family drama (though there’s always a bit of that). No, the source of the difficulty was simple: it was loud, 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 Jay’s new puppy. The whole experience was extremely aggravating. Mostly, you blame the acoustics. But you can’t completely ignore the possibility that maybe your hearing is starting to go bad.

It isn’t generally recommended to attempt to self diagnose hearing loss because it generally isn’t possible. But there are some early warning signs you should keep your eye on. When enough of these red flags surface, it’s worth scheduling an appointment to get tested by a hearing specialist.

Early Signs of Hearing Loss

Some of the symptoms of hearing loss are subtle. But if you should find your own experiences reflected in any of the items on the following list, you just might be dealing with some degree of hearing loss.

Here are some of the warning signs of hearing loss:

  • There’s a ringing in your ears: This ringing, which can also be the sound of screeching, thumping, buzzing, or other sounds, is technically called tinnitus. Tinnitus is frequently 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 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 may not even notice how frequently this is happening and you may miss this red flag.
  • You have trouble hearing high-pitched sounds. Things like a whistling teapot or ringing doorbell sometimes go undetected for several minutes or more. Early hearing loss is usually most apparent in specific (and frequently high-pitched) frequencies of sound.
  • Phone calls suddenly seem muffled and difficult to comprehend: Nowadays, due to texting, we use the phone much less than we once did. 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.
  • You notice it’s difficult to understand certain words. When consonants become hard to differentiate this red flag should go up. The th- and sh- sounds are very commonly muffled. Sometimes, it’s the s- and f-sounds or p- and t-sounds that become conflated.
  • Someone observes that the volume on your media devices is getting louder and louder. Maybe the volume on your phone keeps getting louder and louder. Maybe it’s your TV that’s at max volume. Usually, it’s a friend, neighbor, or a member of your family that makes you recognize the increasing volumes.
  • When you’re in a loud crowded place, conversations often get lost. This is precisely what happened during the “family dinner” illustration above, and it’s typically an early sign of hearing problems.
  • Certain sounds seem so loud that they’re unbearable. It’s one of the more uncommon early warning signs linked to loss of hearing, but hyperacusis is common enough that you may find yourself encountering 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 Exam

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 examination to know for sure.

You might very well be experiencing some amount of hearing loss even if you’re only noticing one of these early warning signs. What level of hearing loss you might be dealing with can only be established with a hearing examination. Then it will become more evident what has to be done about it.

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

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