Signs of Hearing Loss

We’ve all been there: you don’t hear what someone says, so you ask them to repeat themselves, only to miss their statement again. You desperately ask for a final chance, but it’s futile – you fail to catch it, and resort to nodding, laughing, and hoping that it wasn’t a question.

Having this experience once every few weeks or so is human, but having it daily? Not so much. In fact, it’s a sign that you might have some form of hearing loss. Then again, it might have been the environment – like a loud restaurant – or the fault of the person you’re speaking to.

So, if mishearing people isn’t enough to concern you about potential hearing loss, we’ve compiled some other signs that your hearing might be starting to depart.

If you’re worried you might be experiencing hearing loss, the best way to get a solid answer would be to arrange a free hearing test. To do this, our quick and easy form can help arrange an appointment for you.

You might have hearing loss if:

You’re over forty

The stereotype is that all elderly people lose their hearing, and while that isn’t necessarily true, there is a bit of fact to the fiction. Presbycusis, a Greek portmanteau of presbys (“old”) + akousis (“hearing”), is the process of losing your hearing over time.

It’s an issue with a huge impact – one in every six adults in the US between the ages of 41 and 59 experience age-induced hearing loss, with that number ramping up to one in three people over the age of 60.

Hearing loss has been normalized as “just a part of growing old,” but that’s a dangerous way of thinking. If you ignore it until it really starts to affect your professional or social life, you’ll end up in a far worse situation than if you tackled it when you first started to notice.

You experienced multiple ear infections as a child

Ear infections aren’t exactly uncommon in babies and children, so one or two won’t be the end of the world. But if a youngster experiences enough infections, it can cause enough damage that it will manifest as hearing loss further down the line.

Woman with hearing loss

You struggle to hear words on the TV or phone

Even the most mild cases of hearing loss can lead someone to struggle with parsing speech, which means you might notice yourself turning up the TV, or even receiving complaints about the volume from loved ones or neighbors.

When a person’s hearing starts to fail, they start by losing the ability to hear high frequency sounds, like “s,” “f,” or “th.” This can cause jarring gaps in a person’s sentence, and can lead to you misunderstanding them, causing you to turn up the TV or switch the phone to the other ear.

You struggle to follow conversations

It’s not just TV and phones – you might struggle to hear people in real life, too. Just like in our introduction, you might find yourself asking “what?” more often than you’d like, frustrating yourself or the people you talk to.

This might be at its worst in louder environments, like crowded restaurants or windy parks, where the sound gets all mixed up and distorted.

You’re related to someone with hearing loss

An unfortunate truth – sometimes hearing loss is unavoidable. If you’re a blood relative of someone (or some people) who suffer from hearing loss, then you’re automatically at a higher risk, since hearing loss can be genetic.

If your uncle has hearing loss, don’t panic – it’s not a sure thing. It’s just something you need to be aware of if you start to notice your own ears acting up.

You’ve taken certain medications throughout your life

Some medications are known as “ototoxic” – “oto” meaning ear, and “toxic” meaning… toxic. These drugs, while being prescribed to help certain other conditions, can damage the hair cells within the interior of the ear.

These drugs can include chemotherapy agents, antibiotics, and even aspirin – all of which can limit the blood flow to your ears and asphyxiate the hair cells, or even actively attack them. If you’re taking (or have taken) any medication, do some research into it and see if there’s a chance it could have harmed your hearing.

You’ve been exposed to intense noise or loud music

No surprise here: too much loud noise is detrimental to your aural health. In fact, the most common cause of hearing loss in adults is noise exposure.

It’s easy to forget how powerful sound can be – noise pollution is a serious enough phenomenon that it can kill thousands of people a year. So if you’ve had a life of loud concerts, loud machinery, or even screaming children, hearing loss is not out of the question for you.

Hearing loss collage

You hear a ringing or buzzing in your ear

You may have heard of tinnitus – a condition that causes a constant ringing or humming that can only be heard by the individual suffering from it.

The condition is closely related to hearing loss – indeed, as many as 90% of tinnitus cases are tied to cases of hearing loss. So, if you’re suffering from tinnitus, there’s a chance you might have hearing loss on your horizon.

You’re a smoker/drinker

Returning to ototoxicity, medication isn’t the only substance that can damage your hearing. Studies have found that both alcohol and tobacco (and also nicotine) have serious adverse effects on the inner ear over time.

It’s not exactly earth-shattering news – smoking and drinking have negative effects all over the human body. But the fact that it can damage your hearing might come as a bit of a surprise, so keep it in mind!

You have other conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension

Unfortunately, these conditions can carry audiological side effects. For example, hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes as it is in people without.

Another issue is hypertension, which can accelerate hearing degeneration – in other words,  higher blood pressure = worse hearing.

Then there’s the issue of blood flow, which is crucial when it comes to the health of your ears. Inadequate blood flow throughout the body can also cause hearing loss.

You can’t hear certain frequencies

The wider range of human hearing is about 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. Human speech typically falls between 500 Hz and 3,000 Hz. Generally speaking, if you are able to detect sounds between 250 Hz and 8,000 Hz at a volume of 25 decibels, you are considered to have normal hearing.

The video below will play sounds from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, and you can use it as a rudimentary hearing test. If you can’t hear some sounds from the video, a hearing test would be a good idea. You may also want to use a decibel meter to ensure the intensity is around 25 dB.

Overall

As evidenced by this article, there are loads of ways to damage your hearing – and considering that hearing loss can’t be cured, this makes the world a scary place for your sensitive ears.

If you’re at all concerned about possible hearing loss, there’s no harm in booking a free consultation with a hearing healthcare professional. You’ll be given a free hearing test, and get a solid answer on your ears’ condition.

Duncan Lambden

Duncan Lambden

Writer

Duncan is an Australian-born American-raised creative writer with a passion for healthy ears. He continues to build upon his audiology qualifications with research and various courses. Duncan has been working alongside Florida-based audiologist Lindsey Banks, Au.D., to make sure that Everyday Hearing has the most up-to-date content.

Comments

  1. I was surprised when you talked about how tinnitus is associated with hearing loss about 90% of the time. My husband told me he’s been hearing a loud ringing in his ears for about a week now. I’m glad I read your article so I can encourage him to get evaluated and get hearing aids if necessary!

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