8 Hearing Loss Signs Never to Ignore

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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  • Older Caucasian woman getting ear exam from female Caucasian ear, nose and throat doctor

    “Huh? Can you repeat that?” If you find yourself having more trouble hearing what people are saying than you used to, you may be suffering from early hearing loss. It’s a common problem, with age-related loss affecting half of those over 65. Many younger people experience hearing loss, too, caused by things like loud music or machines at work. Some types of hearing loss can be treated, but require prompt medical attention. Learn more about early signs of hearing loss to discuss with your doctor.

  • 1
    Sudden loss of hearing, especially in one ear
    Senior Caucasian man holding fingers to ear

    Most hearing loss is gradual. But if you rapidly go deaf in one ear, either suddenly or over a few days, call your doctor. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss, an inner ear disorder affecting about 66,000 Americans annually, must be treated within 10 to 14 days before hearing loss becomes permanent. Some people notice a pop and then sound is gone; others wake up hearing nothing from one ear. Or, you may experience gradually diminishing hearing over a day or two. All are hearing loss signs requiring prompt medication attention.

  • 2
    Ringing in your ears
    senior woman bothered by noise in ears or noise pollution

    Ringing or other sounds in your ears, such as roaring, clicking, buzzing or hissing, is called tinnitus. Tinnitus can be a symptom of many different conditions, including ear infections, heart disease, and thyroid problems, but one of its chief causes is noise-induced hearing loss. In fact, tinnitus is sometimes the first sign for older people that their ability to hear is diminishing. If you are experiencing tinnitus, contact your doctor and discuss having your hearing tested.

  • 3
    Trouble balancing
    Senior man walking with cane in his home

    If you’ve noticed you’re becoming clumsier than in the past, are experiencing vertigo symptoms such as dizziness, or are having difficulty with your ability to balance, the cause might be your ears. Hearing and balance are linked to mechanisms within the inner ear. A study by Johns Hopkins University found that people with hearing loss were three times more likely to experience falls than those without hearing loss. This symptom should be evaluated by your physician to see whether hearing correction, such as with hearing aids, is needed.

  • 4
    Trouble hearing in groups
    Mature woman hanging out with friends during cocktail party

    If you’re chatting with one other person, especially in a peaceful, quiet environment, you may not experience any difficulty with your hearing. But when you’re trying to make conversation within a group of people, especially in a louder locale such as a restaurant or party, you may notice you have a lot more trouble grasping what people are saying. This common problem is sometimes referred to as hidden hearing loss because it’s not always detected in standard hearing tests but can be a precursor to traditional hearing loss.

  • 5
    Feeling pain with certain sounds
    Man holding painful ear with hand

    One sign of hearing loss is hearing other sounds more acutely, even to the point of pain. As your hearing diminishes overall, you may become more sensitive in one or both ears to certain, specific sounds, a symptom called hyperacusis. The sounds you’re sensitive to may seem excessively loud and create physical discomfort. Hyperacusis is linked to inner-ear hearing loss caused by loud noise exposure. If this symptom persists, consult a hearing professional to see if you have hearing loss and what remedies are available.

  • 6
    Resorting to closed captioning more often
    Hand of man pointing remote control at working television screen

    Do you increasingly find yourself boosting the TV volume higher than others in your household find necessary? Are you annoyed by how many characters on TV dramas seem to mumble incomprehensibly? Have you turned on closed captioning more frequently than in the past? These are indicators your hearing has suffered. The human voice falls into the range of high-frequency tones often affected by hearing loss, so having difficulty with hearing these is a sign you need to contact your doctor or a hearing specialist.

  • 7
    Withdrawing from conversations
    Smiling senior woman in discussion with family during outdoor dinner party

    One early hearing loss sign is “listening fatigue.” You may find yourself getting extra tired after a day spent listening to customers or a night trying to field dinner-party banter—so much so that you start avoiding conversing in groups. You also may find it harder to understand what people are saying and you’re afraid that, as a result, you’ll ask a dumb question or make an awkward comment. So, you withdraw from conversations altogether. This is a clue you need to seek out an audiologist for assessment.

  • 8
    Becoming more forgetful
    Mature woman sticking post-it note to window

    Getting appointment times mixed up? Picking up the wrong item for your spouse at the grocery store? Sometimes what appears to be forgetfulness can be due to hearing loss causing you not to catch critical information. But hearing loss can also cause cognitive problems, researchers have found. The brain needs auditory stimulation for proper functioning or you risk developing Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. This is another reason why it’s important to address hearing issues early and get hearing aids when warranted. Hearing aids don’t make you old, but instead keep you mentally engaged and connected with those around you.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jun 30
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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