Shearing vest? Cheer request? Earring press? Hmm, well let’s look into this a little further. Close to 15% of adults in the US report some difficulty with hearing and about 2% of adults between the ages of 45 and 54 have disabling hearing loss impacting their daily lives. According to the World Health Organization, by the year 2050, almost 2.5 billion people worldwide are projected to suffer from some degree of hearing loss.
But is it possible for someone to have hearing loss and not know it? Here are some signs you may need a hearing test (as opposed to steering west or a searing chest).
Seven Signs of Hearing Loss
1. You commonly mishear words.
The specific sounds and words you have trouble with may depend on your frequency of hearing loss. For example, people with high frequency hearing loss may struggle more with words that contain F, Th, and S, whereas losses in the lower frequencies make M and N words more difficult. You may also find words that rhyme or sound similar to each other are difficult to distinguish, such as cat or cap.
2. Certain environments are extra challenging.
If you’re in a quiet room and your spouse is whispering sweet nothings into your ear, it may not be so much of a big deal. But put some road noise on in the background, or some lively chatter at a restaurant, and suddenly you may feel like you’ve lost your place in the conversation. People with hearing loss often find it difficult to follow speech when in noisy environments or when chatting on a device, such as a phone or on a video call.
3. The TV is up too loud – says everyone else except you.
Understandably, needing to turn up the volume on the TV or radio is a commonly reported symptom of hearing loss.
4. Sounds seem muffled.
Birds don’t also need to wear masks, do they? If you’re feeling speech or other sounds seem a little muffled or indistinct, it may be a sign of hearing loss. This can lead to being unable to locate where sounds are originating from or needing to ask people to repeat themselves.
5. Social situations aren’t as fun as they used to be.
Unfortunately, many people with hearing loss find themselves withdrawing from social interaction simply because they can’t hear well enough to participate confidently. This can include face-to-face interactions or even communicating over the phone or on online platforms. You may feel embarrassed about often having to ask people to repeat themselves or speak more loudly. People with hearing loss may also find themselves unusually fatigued after engaging in social interaction, due to the extra effort needed to listen more closely to conversation.
6. You hear a ringing in the ears that no one else hears.
Tinnitus can be a once-off response to exposure to a loud noise but can also be a sign of hearing damage. Ringing is not the only way that tinnitus makes itself known – you may also experience a whooshing sound in your ears or hissing, roaring, or buzzing.
7. Certain noises are particularly bothersome.
Counterintuitively, people with hearing loss may feel discomfort or pain around certain sounds that seem not to perturb others. Damage to your hearing may cause a state of hypersensitivity, making noises at a normal volume feel too loud to you.
Why Schedule a Hearing Test?
Even if you don’t check any of the boxes of hearing loss symptoms, understanding whether you have any risk factors for hearing loss can help you to stay on the lookout should any of these signs begin to emerge. If you are getting older (which we all are), have a family history of hearing loss, have had any injuries to your head or ears, or are often exposed to loud environments such as construction sites, you may be at an increased risk of developing hearing loss. Certain medications known as ototoxic drugs are also known have the potential to damage hearing; you may want to check with your prescribing physician if any of your medications fall into this category.
While some of these risk factors are not preventable, others are. Protecting your hearing is the best way of staving off hearing loss or protecting what hearing remains. Depending on the underlying causes, lost hearing ability may not be able to be restored once it’s gone.
If you suspect yourself or a loved one is experiencing undiagnosed hearing loss, don’t delay in scheduling a hearing test with a qualified and licensed hearing specialist. Although many forms of hearing loss are permanent, there are options for treatment that can help get you back on track with feeling confident with your hearing again, such as hearing aids. All it takes is the first step of getting a hearing test (not sneering pest).