Early Signs of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a very common medical condition that becomes more prevalent with age. The greatest amount of hearing loss in adults aged 20–69 occurs in those aged 60–69. In two-thirds of people over the age of 70, some form of hearing loss is present.

The effects of hearing loss on quality of life can be profound. Loss of hearing is a gradual process that may take time to detect. Others around you may notice your hearing loss first. Hearing loss can cause difficulty in relationships and lead to loneliness and depression.

Understanding the early signs of hearing loss can help in the diagnosis of the condition and lead to proper treatment. Early treatment can prevent further loss of hearing and help in the maintenance of quality of life.

In this article, you will learn the warning signs of hearing loss, and the causes, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Woman with hearing aid using remote to turn up the volume on television

Kemal Yildirim / Getty Images

Warning Signs

Though hearing loss is a common condition, some people find it difficult to admit they have a hard time hearing. Understanding the signs of hearing loss can help with the diagnosis and treatment of the condition. There are various signs of hearing loss that may indicate your ability to hear is declining.   

Pay Attention to Others

Hearing loss is gradual and sometimes hard to notice. Your friends and family may notice your hearing loss before you do.

Muffled Hearing

Conversations can become difficult with hearing loss. Muffled hearing may make it seem that others are mumbling. You may find yourself asking people to repeat themselves, or you have a hard time following conversations when two or more people are talking.

Telephone conversations may also be difficult. Women’s and children’s voices can be hard to understand.

Ears Ringing

If the ears feel clogged and ringing is present, you may have tinnitus (the medical term for ringing in the ears). Tinnitus may be the first sign of hearing loss.

Though tinnitus is often described as ears ringing, it can also have a hissing, roaring, or clicking sound. The sound may be loud or soft, high or low pitched, and can be more pronounced when there is no other sound in the room.

Sound Sensitivity

Hearing loss can cause a loss of sensitivity to sound. Signs of this include:

  • Having to turn the TV or radio volume to levels that seem loud for others
  • Difficulty hearing conversations in loud spaces such as restaurants

Causes

Hearing loss is caused by damage to the auditory (hearing) systems. This damage can occur due to the following:

Diagnosis

To diagnose hearing loss your healthcare provider will conduct several types of tests. These tests measure the ability to hear and how well the components of the ear are working in conjunction with the brain.

Tests include hearing tests in which other sounds are eliminated and certain tones and monosyllabic (single-syllable) words are played through headphones. In other tests, sensors may be placed on the head to measure how well the brain stem and auditory nerve respond to the noises in the headphones.

Treatment

Treatment for hearing loss depends on severity and type. Options for treatment include:

  • Hearing aids are devices worn in or behind your ear to make sounds louder and correct losses of certain sound frequencies. They may take time to adjust to but working with an audiologist or hearing aid specialist can help you find the correct fit.
  • Cochlear implants are small electronic devices that are surgically placed in the inner ear. For people who are deaf or extremely hard of hearing, cochlear implants provide a sense of sound.
  • Assistive listening devices can help with hearing in certain situations. Telephone and cell phone amplifying devices as well as apps and closed-circuit systems in places of worship and theaters can all provide hearing assistance.
  • Lip reading or speech reading is a method that can be used to help follow conversations. By paying close attention to the way a speaker’s mouth and body move, the listener may be able to compensate for their hearing loss.

When to Talk to Your Healthcare Provider

Talk to your healthcare provider if you notice any signs of hearing loss such as ringing in the ears, or difficulty following conversations. Remember that you might not notice signs right away either.

If family and friends point out that you have difficulty hearing, don’t be ashamed, remember that they are most likely trying to help.

See your healthcare provider as soon as possible so they can assess the situation and refer you to a specialist who can help you cope with and manage hearing loss to minimize its effects on your daily life.

Summary

Early signs of hearing loss range from ringing in the ears to difficulty understanding conversations. Age is a common cause of hearing loss as well as exposure to loud noises. Seeking treatment right away can help you learn to cope with the condition.

A Word From Verywell

Hearing loss can be difficult to recognize at first. You may feel embarrassed to admit you have difficulty hearing. This is normal.

However, it’s important to seek the advice of a healthcare provider so that you can find ways to manage your hearing loss and prevent further loss and other complications such as cognitive difficulties and a sense of isolation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is hearing loss considered a disability?

    Hearing loss is the fourth leading cause of disability in the world. Depending on the extent of hearing loss, you may qualify as disabled based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Social Security regulations. You may be entitled to workplace accommodations or disability compensation.

  • How can you tell if hearing loss is permanent or temporary?


    Sudden deafness may be temporary, but a healthcare provider can determine the cause of hearing loss and whether the loss is permanent or temporary.

  • Can you prevent hearing loss?


    Not all types of hearing loss can be prevented, but avoiding exposure to loud noises can help prevent noise induced hearing loss.

  • What percentage of hearing loss qualifies as “legally deaf”?


    Losing 60% or more of hearing in the better ear qualifies as “legally deaf."

  • Is hearing loss different from deafness?


    Hearing loss ranges from mild to severe, whereas deafness is a profound loss that refers to the inability to hear at all or to hear very little.

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9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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