Hearing loss symptoms

The signs of hearing loss are more obvious than you think.

One in six adults 18 and older has hearing loss. Here are ways to tell if you or someone you love might have hearing loss.

Common signs of hearing loss

You frequently ask others to repeat themselves

If you find yourself saying “what?” all the time, or you need to be looking at someone to hear what they’re saying (by also reading their lips), your hearing might be fading.

You turn the TV to a volume others find loud

When you can’t have a conversation because your TV is too loud, it’s time to get a hearing test.

You have trouble understanding conversations in noisy places

This is one of the first challenges people with hearing loss encounter: tracking what someone else is saying in a noise-filled place like a restaurant.

You have difficulty hearing women and children’s voices

High-frequency hearing loss is very common — so it’s to be expected that women and children's voices would be tough to hear.

You feel like others are mumbling

A classic complaint of people who have hearing loss is that others don’t speak clearly. If you find yourself thinking people are mumbling and hard to understand, that may be a symptom of hearing loss.

You have trouble hearing on the phone

If you have trouble occasionally, that is OK. If you constantly feel like you cannot hear on the phone, whether you’re using a landline or mobile phone, this may be a symptom of hearing loss.

You avoid social situations that were once enjoyable

People who can’t engage easily, feel left out of conversations, or who have bad experiences trying to hear in public spaces often decide it’s easier to decline invitations and stay at home. It doesn’t have to be this way.

You have ringing in your ears

Ringing in your ears is often thought to be a symptom of hearing loss or damage to the auditory system — and hearing loss and tinnitus very often go hand in hand.

You are told by others that you have hearing loss

If more than one friend or family member questions your hearing acuity — in seriousness or jest — guess what? They could be onto something.

Next: Prevention

Why people ignore hearing loss

People who treat hearing loss often say, “why did I wait so long?” Here are four common reasons:

It's unrecognized

“I don’t have hearing loss” they say, “you just mumble and talk too softly.”

It’s easy to compensate for

“I’ll just turn up the volume, ask others to repeat themselves, or avoid places where hearing is a problem.”

It’s viewed as no big deal

Many people are unfamiliar with research linking hearing loss to falls, depression, social isolation and dementia.

They think hearing aids are a pain

Maybe once upon a time, but today’s hearing aids are smart, sophisticated and designed to set-and-forget.

Frequently asked questions

Most of the time hearing problems begin gradually without discomfort or pain. What's more, family members often learn to adapt to someone’s hearing loss without even realizing they are doing it. Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine whether you have hearing loss.

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There are three types of hearing loss including: sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss and mixed hearing loss. Most people lose at least some degree of their hearing as they age, and by the time they reach age 65 and older, one in three people has some type of hearing impairment.

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Hearing loss can occur at any time, at any age. In fact, most people with hearing loss (65 percent) are younger than age 65! There are 6 million people in the US ages 18–44 with hearing loss, and around 1.5 million are school age.

Only 13 percent of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss. Since most people with hearing impairments hear just fine in quiet environments (like your doctor's office), it can be very difficult for your physician to recognize this problem. Only a trained hearing professional can determine the severity of your hearing problem, whether or not you could benefit from a hearing aid, and which type would be best for you.

This list of questions can help you get the answers you need from a hearing specialist

You should make an appointment with a hearing professional like an audiologist, hearing aid specialist or ENT for an evaluation, consultation and hearing test. Many hearing care professionals offer this evaluation at no charge.

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