7 subtle signs you may have hearing loss

Here are seven subtle signs you might be losing your hearing from Tami Harel, Chief Audiologist and Director of Clinical Research at Nuance Hearing

Changes to your hearing can often be subtle or gradual and you may not notice them at first. It’s a myth too that hearing loss only affects the older population—the World Health Organisation has warned that 1 in 4 of us will be living with some degree of hearing loss by 2050.

1. You struggle to hear in a crowded room

Understanding speech in a noisy environment is a common problem for those with hearing loss and is known as the “cocktail party problem”. Ignoring other voices to focus on one is far more difficult when you have hearing loss and can be challenging and overwhelming.

Devices such as Nuance’s Voice Selector Converse are specifically designed to address the cocktail party problem and help users decipher speech in a noisy environment.

2. You ask people to repeat themselves

Finding it hard to follow a conversation or asking people to repeat what they say could stem from the beginnings of a high-frequency hearing loss.

This affects our ability to discern the sounds of speech and hear certain consonants, which can make it difficult for a person to follow a conversation. Before face masks, lip-reading went a certain way to help those with hearing loss fill in the gaps, which is obviously a lot harder now.

3. Your hearing is muffled

Blocked ears can sound and feel like cotton wool balls in your ear. And while there isn’t complete hearing loss, you may strain to hear others clearly.

Often it is temporary, but sometimes clogged or muffled ears can be a sign of conductive hearing loss—when the outer or middle ear is affected, and sounds can’t travel normally to the inner ear.

Visit an ENT doctor or an audiologist as soon as you can to determine the cause of the problem and protect your hearing.

4. You have ringing in your ears 

Ringing in your ears, or tinnitus is common. Around 1 in 8 adults in the UK have tinnitus all the time, or regularly. Often, tinnitus is linked to hearing loss caused by normal ageing or exposure to loud noise. You might hear it in one or both ears.

There are different therapies and things you can do to help you manage your tinnitus effectively. See a GP if you have regular or constant tinnitus.

5. You find it hard to understand women or children

The cells that pick up high-pitched sounds are usually the first to fail, which is why it can make it harder for someone with a hearing loss to understand anyone with a high-pitched voice, such as women or children.

It’s also the reason why you might not hear your microwave ping or birdsong. Often, people with this type of hearing loss have the feeling they can hear, but not understand.

"Often, people with this type of hearing loss have the feeling they can hear, but not understand"

6. You turn up the TV louder than your family wants it

If you are consistently turning up the television, when your family or friends are complaining it is too loud, it’s probably time to get your hearing checked. Even mild hearing loss will show up on a hearing test.

7. You are easily distracted

Even mild hearing loss can cause cognitive overload, which can affect concentration or memory.

Someone with hearing loss will have to pay more attention than a person with typical hearing levels because they use up more of their brain’s resources when listening and interpreting sound. Constantly straining to hear conversations can take its toll, both mentally and physically

Where to find help

Even those with good hearing may have trouble in a challenging hearing environment, but if you suspect your hearing may be affected, getting a hearing test is a good idea.

While hearing loss cannot easily be prevented, early intervention is important to help prevent cognitive decline and improve quality of life. Contact your GP who will refer you to an audiologist and get back to hearing your best.

Tami Harel is Chief Audiologist and Director of Clinical Research, Nuance Hearing nuancehear.com.

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