Hearing loss signs

Do friends complain that they always have to repeat themselves? Do family members say you have the TV on too loud? Hearing loss can be very gradual so you may not notice it at first. You don’t feel any different. The sound seems normal to you. This is why other people may realise before you do.

So how can you tell if people are just complaining too much or if you should get your hearing checked out? Here are some signs that you may need a hearing test.

Can you hear low level noise?

Background noise such as the fridge humming is something you wouldn’t miss if you couldn’t hear it. How quiet is your kitchen? Can you hear the microwave whirring or the dishwasher filling up? Think about other things in your home that should make a noise, such as the fish tank pump or the boiler heating up.

Ask someone else if they can hear these low level sounds. You may simply have a very quiet home.

Can you hear people calling you?

Do you ever get someone say they called you and you ignored them?  Do people make you jump because you didn’t hear them coming? Everyone can have trouble hearing sound at a distance but if it happens frequently in quiet environments, then it may be worth noting.

Can you hear traffic?

When you are crossing the road can you hear the traffic or are you relying on your sight to stay safe? Cars are getting quieter, electric cars don’t make much sound at all so it’s harder for everyone. Other vehicles such as vans and buses are still fairly noisy. Can you hear the engine of your own car when you’re driving?

Do you hear people but not understand what they say?

People with hearing loss hear some sounds or frequencies better than others. Usually the softer speech sounds become harder to hear. These sounds include ‘th’ ‘f’ ‘s’ ‘z’ and ‘v’. This means that you can mishear parts of words and sentences. Your mind may even fill in the blanks for you, changing the meaning of what’s being said.

Do you know when the subject has changed?

In noisier environments following conversation can be even harder. You may only be able to make out a couple of words in each sentence. In a group conversation the subject can change quickly. If you don’t realise the topic has changed you may say the wrong thing or speak out of turn, making you embarrassed.

Other times, usually in quieter places, you may be able to follow conversation easily so you feel there is no problem.

Can you hear some people more easily than others?

As previously mentioned, hearing loss can affect some frequencies and not others. This can mean that people with higher pitched voices, such as children, are much harder to hear.

Can you hear in some places better than others?

Hearing in noisy places is hard for everyone. But if you have a hearing loss it can be harder to focus on the person speaking. It becomes hard to separate the different sounds and everything seems like one big noise.

In a normal sized room it can be easier to hear because the sound is bounced back to you from the walls and ceiling. In larger rooms with high ceilings the sound can get lost. This is why it’s harder to hear in certain rooms. When you are outside, the sound gets carried away in the wind.

Can you hear people with beards?

I know this is a strange question, but people with hearing loss often compensate without realising by reading lips. If you struggle to hear people when their lips are obscured by facial hair or their hands then you may be doing the same.

Are you struggling to hear on the telephone?

As well as not being able to see the person you’re speaking to, telephone conversations can also be difficult to hear due to poor connections or background noise. Voices may sound very distant and those softer speech sounds may not be heard at all.

Are people annoying you?

Is everyone mumbling at you? Do they turn their head away from you so you can’t hear or talk behind you? They aren’t doing it on purpose. Needing to be face to face with someone to hear them is very common for people with hearing loss. This doesn’t always occur to people with good hearing, they assume you can hear everything as well as they do.

If any of this has felt familiar, you should get your hearing tested. Hearing loss has many causes, from treatable ear infections or exposure to loud sounds to ageing. Getting help and advice early can help you to avoid the drop in confidence and social isolation which affects many people with hearing problems.

Along with hearing aids and microphones to help you at work and in social situations, there is plenty of technology available to help you hear better at home. These include amplified telephones, alarm clocks with pillow shakers and extra loud doorbells.