Hearing loss that occurs gradually as you age (the medical term is “presbycusis”) is highly common. About a quarter of the United States population between the ages of 55 and 64 have some degree of hearing loss. For people older than 65, the number soars to almost one in every two individuals.
Hearing loss is a broad umbrella term. Depending on the degree or severity of the hearing loss, symptoms can range from occasional difficulty understanding words to the inability to communicate with others. While there are different types of hearing loss and many different causes, the early symptoms are all quite similar and are as follows:
Listening to technology a high volume
If you’re repeatedly finding yourself turning up the stereo, or constantly reaching for the volume on the TV remote, it might have more to do with your ability to hear than with the device itself.
Trouble understanding speech
Be mindful of potential straining to understand others when they talk, especially in noisy environments or against background noises.
The perception that others are mumbling
Chances are that not everyone around you is speaking softly. If it seems like the people around you are constantly mumbling, it might be a good idea to check out your hearing.
Often asking people to repeat themselves
Do you keep saying “what?” Or “would you mind repeating that?” It could be because you’re struggling to hear, not because their speech is falling flat.
Avoiding social situations
Try to figure out why you’re distancing yourself from others. If it’s due to a general feeling of exhaustion or frustration after attending social events with too much talking, your body may be working overtime to hear and process what everyone is saying.
Tinnitus is a condition that sounds like ringing in the ears. The problem is not uncommon, and it affects about 1 in every 5 people. Tinnitus is not a condition itself: It is a symptom of an underlying condition, such as an ear injury, a circulatory system disorder, or—you guessed it—hearing loss.
Missing high-pitched sounds
The most common type of hearing loss is sensorineural hearing loss, which results in a decreased ability to hear high-pitched sounds. There are a few sounds that people with high-frequency hearing loss tend to miss. These include female and young children’s voices, certain consonant sounds (like s, sh, f, v, th, f, p), the car’s turn signal, and the beeping sounds on timers and microwave oven.
Knowing these early symptoms can help you catch and stop hearing loss in its tracks. If you suspect that you might have a hearing issue, contact your doctor and set up an audio test.