By Dr. Cindy Leeb

Noticeable hearing loss is not something that occurs suddenly for most people affected by a hearing impairment. Hearing loss is something that typically develops slowly over time and only becomes noticeable when the individual begins to struggle communicating with others. Oftentimes, the person who is affected is not the first to notice these signs; rather, it is typically a family member or a friend. It is important to recognize the common signs of hearing loss, since we know treatment outcomes for hearing loss are better the sooner a hearing loss is addressed. Today, we will briefly discuss four common signs of hearing loss.

#1 – Trouble hearing in noisy places
One of the initial common signs of hearing loss is difficulty hearing in the presence of background noise. As you can imagine, everyone has more trouble hearing in background noise, even those with normal hearing, so it is often not immediately associated with a sign of hearing loss. Over time as a hearing loss progresses people will often have more trouble in background noise, because not only are they losing out on some of the volume of the speech, they are also losing out on some of the clarity as the brain struggles to piece together the information it is receiving. If someone starts noticing that they are struggling more in background noise, they need to ask themselves if they are starting to show any other signs of hearing loss.

#2 – Needing more volume on the TV
Another common sign of hearing loss is turning up the volume on the television, telephone, or radio. Yes, some channels are easier to hear than others, and yes, sometimes commercials are louder than the show, but if you are turning the volume up to a point where friends or family are complaining that it is too loud, then it is time to get your hearing tested (the same is true if you find yourself relying on closed captioning to enjoy the television).

#3 – Thinking others are mumbling
It is also not uncommon for people who have hearing loss to complain that those around them are mumbling. The most common pattern of hearing loss is one where the high frequencies show larger degrees of loss than the low frequencies. This often makes people feel like they can hear a person but they just can’t understand them. The reason for this is that the consonant sounds in speech are typically in the higher frequency range and these are the sounds we rely on most for the clarity of speech. So, if you start to notice that individuals you used to hear with ease seem to be mumbling, it may actually be a sign of hearing loss.

#4 – Saying “huh?” or “what” more often.
The last sign of hearing loss is requesting repetition. Very often this is most noticeable to family members and friends with whom the hearing impaired individual most commonly communicates. Everyone is guilty of their mind wandering at some point and being forced to ask for someone to repeat themselves and it is not uncommon to miss things here and there in a conversation or to ask for occasional repetition, but when asking for repetition is a common and repeated occurrence in a conversation, it can indicate a hearing loss. This goes hand-in-hand with mishearing information, such as when someone asks a question or makes a statement and another individual responds with information on a completely different topic. Sometimes, it only takes missing one or two key words in a sentence for it to have a completely different meaning to the person who hears it versus the person who produced it.

If any of these signs of hearing loss sound familiar. Get your hearing tested.
There are many subtle signs of hearing loss. If you are concerned about your own hearing or a loved one’s hearing, take a step back and look for the signs. Even if you are unsure if a hearing loss is present, it is better to get a hearing test now rather than wait and miss out on the conversations around you.

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