7 Early Warning Signs of Hearing Loss

By Barry Keate
Barry Keate, has lived with tinnitus over 40 years and has published 150+ research articles on numerous aspects of tinnitus. He is an expert on the condition and a well-known advocate for those with tinnitus.

Early Warning Signs of Hearing Loss


We all lose some hearing as we get older. That doesn’t mean your hearing loss will necessarily be debilitative or severe enough to require intervention. You may notice it is not as sensitive to certain sounds as it once was, but you are still able to hear your music and converse with friends and family without difficulty.

So, how do you know if your hearing loss has progressed enough to warrant an appointment with an audiologist? Here are some warning signs to watch out for.

Warning Signs

1. Everyone Is Mumbling

People commonly lose the ability to hear higher frequencies as they age. Most consonants resonate in that higher register, so all you’ll hear are the vowel sounds, making words difficult to distinguish.

You can often figure out what people mean in context with the rest of the conversation or by reading lips, so you may not notice at first. Instead, look for trends. If you start asking everyone to speak up, talk slower, or, for Heaven’s sake, stop mumbling, you may want to get your hearing checked.

2. People Keep Telling You To Turn The TV Down

It seems like you’re constantly turning the TV up and down. Advertisers raise the volume of the commercials to grab your attention. In contrast, the people on your favorite show may have soft voices that are hard to make out. This problem gets compounded by ambient noise in your home or when people are talking over the dialog.

TV conversations can be even harder to understand than in-person conversations, as shows are usually fast-paced. If you miss it, you get behind fairly quickly. (Thank goodness for rewind!) Still, if everyone visiting your house comments on the TV’s volume, you may want to check with a doctor about hearing loss.

3. You Miss The Punch Line

When humor often depends on comedic timing or a turn of phrase, missing words can mess with your ability to get the punchline in your friends’ jokes. Of course, there’s always a chance your friends just aren’t that funny, so consider the source. However, if you’re watching a favorite comedian and are still not getting it, don’t miss out on years of laughter. Perhaps a checkup is a good idea.

4. Your Phone’s Volume Won’t Go High Enough

There are days when your cell phone has echoes or one person talks, and the other can’t hear a word. There is static and soft connections, dropped calls, and background noise. If you can’t hear phone calls on a regular basis, however, the problem is either the phone or your hearing.

If the problem is with the phone or your cell service, you may just need a new plan. Have someone use your phone and compare it to the signal on another phone. If the signal is comparatively clear, then it’s time to see a doctor to be on the safe side.

5. You Startle More Easily Than You Used To

Fireworks are loud, and it’s not uncommon to see people covering their ears when they’re close to the action. Covering their ears muffles loud sounds. It makes it hard to hear the softer sounds as well.

If you reverse that, and you’re straining to hear muffled sounds, then loud sounds seem especially loud, even startling by comparison.

That’s not to say some noises aren’t just sudden and loud, like fireworks, but take note of such experiences and look for a trend. Watch other people’s reactions. If they’re just as startled as you are, then no worries. If you react to it disproportionately stronger than others, then you should check with your doctor.

6. You Regularly Lose Your Balance

Everyone gets a little off balance sometimes. You get an ear infection, you spin around or stand up too fast, or you step wrong. It happens all the time, but usually not for the same person.

Our ears help us maintain our balance like gyroscopes. They tell our brain which way is up and what position we are in relation to objects around us. People with trouble keeping their balance sometimes find this problem disappears once they’ve bought well-fitted hearing aids. If you find yourself tipping over more frequently, hearing loss is one avenue of inquiry into why.

7. You Hear Sounds Others Don’t

Tinnitus, often called a ringing in the ears, also resembles a rushing, roaring, buzzing, or whistling sound. If you’re hearing sounds others don’t, and for which there is no external cause, chances are you’re experiencing tinnitus symptoms.

It’s important to note that tinnitus is often a symptom of other conditions, some of which can make hearing loss permanent or endanger your health. If you get a sudden onset of tinnitus, you should check with your doctor to see if you have an infection, high blood pressure, nutrient deficiency, or some other underlying cause you should be concerned about.

If a treatable underlying condition causes tinnitus, tinnitus could go away as suddenly as it appeared. Ask your doctor to check your blood for nutrient deficiencies. Tinnitus relief may be as simple as taking vitamin B12 or Zinc. If tinnitus symptoms persist and there isn’t an underlying cause you can fix, there are products for tinnitus. You can take high-grade ginkgo biloba for ringing in the ears.

When to Seek Treatment

Our ears are delicate instruments that work nonstop from the moment they form in the womb. We subject them to loud music, the sound of heavy machinery, gunfire (for our military and hobbyist gun enthusiasts), sirens, and a million other everyday noises. Over time, the tiny hair-like nerves that transmit sound to our brains get tired and break down. These clues can help you decide if you’ve sustained enough damage to warrant further treatment.


7 Early Warning Signs of Hearing Loss