If you often find yourself saying, “Can you please repeat yourself?” to your friends and family, you may be experiencing hearing loss. Hearing loss can happen gradually, and you may not notice its early signs. Here are four common characteristics of hearing loss.
Difficulty Understanding Speech
One of the first signs of hearing loss is the inability to understand speech, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). As a result, you may frequently ask people to repeat themselves.
“This can be most noticeable when there is a lot of background noise but may also be apparent in quieter situations,” Nicole Aaronson, MD, a pediatric otolaryngologist at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
“Individuals with hearing loss may find that they have a hard time distinguishing similar sounding words, which can lead to difficulty following conversations,” Aaronson explains.
Frequently Increasing the Volume of the TV
With hearing loss, understanding the sound coming from a TV or radio at a previously-set volume may become difficult for you.
“You may not realize you are slowly increasing the volume on the television until someone brings it to your attention,” Trisha Muth, AuD, a clinical audiologist at Bay Area Audiology in Bel Air, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
“If you need to turn the volume on the television down in order to have a conversation with someone else in the room, this may be an indication of a hearing problem and a hearing evaluation is warranted,” Muth adds.
Hearing Unusual Sounds
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ringing in the ears, also called tinnitus, can be a sign of hearing loss. With this condition, you may hear unusual sounds like a ringing, buzzing, hissing, or roaring in one or both ears.
“Many patients experience tinnitus before hearing loss, especially if they’ve had exposure to noise, like loud music, gunshots, or machinery,” Soriya Estes, AuD, an audiologist with Estes Audiology, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
“If someone is experiencing ringing in their ears, it should be a precursor to getting a baseline hearing test done,” Estes says.
Avoiding Social Situations
People with hearing loss find it difficult to understand what others are talking about in noisy places like restaurants, family gatherings, or parties. As a result, they may begin withdrawing from social settings, according to the HLAA.
“You may also be worried about hearing something incorrectly and thus responding incorrectly,” Sandra Porps, AuD, director of audiology at MDHearingAid in Michigan, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “This can lead to a desire to avoid crowds or to stop participating in the conversation.”
Hearing Loss Can be Managed and Treated.
The earlier you address the symptoms of hearing loss, the more likely you are to avoid irreversible damage. Get the answers you need to start treatment today.
Editor's Note: Many advocates have moved away from the term "hearing impaired" in an effort to destigmatize hearing loss and conditions related to it. However, those experiencing hearing loss who are interested in locating treatment may encounter the term occasionally.