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4 Signs Your Loved One May Be Struggling With Hearing Loss

By Manjari Bansal
Medically Reviewed by Jordan Glicksman, MD, FRCSC, MPH on April 26, 2021
Untreated hearing loss can affect emotional wellbeing as well as physical health. Here's how to recognize symptoms of hearing loss in a loved one.

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans between the ages of 65 and 75 experience hearing loss, according to Mayo Clinic. Hearing loss can affect day-to-day conversations and quality of life. Here are four signs to look out for if you’re concerned your loved one may be experiencing hearing loss.

Noises Sound Muffled

According to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), hearing loss happens gradually for most people. Usually family and friends are the first ones to notice that loved ones are having difficulty hearing. People with hearing loss often complain that they can hear but can’t understand, especially in noisy environments.

“Almost everything we hear is made up of many different pitches,” Kevin Seitz-Paquette, AuD, director of the Phonak Audiology Research Center (PARC) at SonovaGroup, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “High pitches tend to give sounds clarity and crispness. Often, hearing loss reduces our ability to hear high-pitched sounds, which can result in the things we hear sounding muffled.”

Difficulty Following Group Conversations

If your loved one is struggling with hearing loss, they may find it difficult to carry on a conversation in a group, especially if people are talking over one another.

“In a group setting, it can be much more challenging to hear voices clearly than one-on-one,” Leslie P Soiles, AuD, chief audiologist at HearingLife in New Jersey, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “This is due to the variance in speed or volume that people speak, as well as additional noises in the background.”

Full or Stuffy Feeling In Ear

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, a feeling of stuffiness in your loved one's ears can be another sign of hearing loss.

Temporary conditions such as a common cold, airplane ear, and an ear infection can also cause a feeling of congestion in the ear. Only a professional examination will be able to pinpoint the exact cause of ear congestion and whether persistent hearing loss should be a concern. Medical consultation is warranted when ear congestion symptoms last longer than a week or are accompanied by swelling or pain that doesn't respond to over-the-counter medication. 

Tinnitus (Ringing in Ears)

“Another sign of hearing loss is tinnitus,” Lindsay Hobbs, AuD, audiologist and clinical director at Sound Advice Hearing Doctors in Missouri, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “This can sound like a ringing, buzzing, chirping, roaring, or clicking sound in one or both ears that is typically only heard by the person experiencing the sounds. These symptoms are typically a sign that something is wrong in the auditory system.”

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.