What Are the First Signs of Hearing Loss?

Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is typically a slow and gradual process. You usually don’t wake up one morning and discover your hearing isn’t as good as it used to be. The primary cause of hearing loss is damage to tiny hair cells in the inner ear that send sound information to your brain to be processed. Chronic exposure to noise over a lifetime gradually harms these cells, leading to varying degrees of hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss is referred to as “presbycusis.”

Problems Hearing High-Frequency Sounds

The first hair cells destroyed by exposure to loud noises are those that carry high-frequency sounds to the brain. An example of high-frequency sounds are ones involved in speech. Often the first sign of hearing problems is difficulty hearing spoken words against background noise.

For example, if you have early hearing impairment you might have problems hearing what someone is saying at a party or in a crowded mall when there’s lots of background noise. You may find yourself frequently asking people to repeat themselves or feel like sounds are muffled.

Other Signs of Early Hearing Loss

Although difficulty distinguishing high-frequency sounds against background noise is often the first symptom of hearing loss, some people with mild to moderate hearing impairment aren’t aware they have a problem, especially if the hearing loss is gradual. If your hearing is declining you may also experience ringing in your ears, especially in a quiet environment or when you lie down to sleep at night.

If you or a family member has any of these symptoms, a hearing evaluation is the next step. If you let it go, you may find yourself feeling more and more frustrated and socially withdrawn because you’re not processing what’s going on around you.

Hearing loss isn’t always due to damage inner ear damage, in some cases, hearing problems turn out to be something as simple as build-up of wax in your ear canals. The key is to get evaluated. Don’t miss out on what’s going on around you! Get your hearing checked.


Medscape Family Medicine. “How Does Hearing Loss Affect the Brain?”

Mayo Clinic. “Hearing Loss”