8 Subtle Hearing Loss Signs You May be Ignoring

Woman with hearing loss holding her hand to her ear

Hearing loss is solely an issue for older people, right?

Not quite. While it’s a fact that your odds of acquiring hearing loss increase with age, you can, in fact, develop hearing loss at any age.

According to the NIDCD, 26 million Americans age 20 to 69 have high-frequency hearing loss from being exposed to loud noise at work and during leisure activities. And that includes 1 in 14 generation Xers, age 29-40, who already have hearing loss.

Since hearing loss can strike at any age, it’s essential to recognize the signs as they’re notoriously subtle and hard to notice.

The following are 8 silent signs of hearing loss that should prompt you to schedule a hearing test.

1. Ringing or buzzing in the ears

Have you ever come home from a booming concert and observed a ringing or humming in your ears?

If yes, that means you’ve damaged the nerve cells of hearing in your inner ear. If it’s only taken place a few times, the damage is most likely short-term and mild. But continued exposure or one-time exposure to very loud sounds could generate permanent damage and hearing loss.

If the ringing in your ears continues, you should book a hearing test as this is one of the first signs of hearing damage. And if bypassing future concerts is not a possibility for you, your hearing professional can help you prevent additional damage with custom-fit earplugs.

2. Balance problems

Your hearing and balance are intricately interconnected. In fact, a large part of your ability to remain balanced is a consequence of sophisticated structures within the inner ear.

If you find that you’ve been more clumsy as of late, the problem may actually be with your ears. In fact, a study by Johns Hopkins University determined that individuals with hearing loss were three times more likely to have a history of falling, depending on the degree of hearing loss.

3. Memory impairment

Your short-term or working memory is quite limited, able to manage only a few items for a short period of time. That means you don’t have time to get caught up on missed words during fast-moving conversations.

With hearing loss, speech comprehension is compromised as you can completely miss or misconstrue the speaker’s words or statement. This manifests later on when you can’t call to mind significant information.

4. Painful sounds

When you lose your hearing, you may become exceedingly sensitive to specific sounds, to the point where they cause pain or discomfort.

The scientific term for this is hyperacusis, and you’ll want to contact a hearing professional if the problem continues or becomes intolerable.

5. Listening exhaustion

Imagine spending the day working hard to determine meaning from half-heard words and sentences and replying to questions you didn’t entirely hear. That amount of attention can wear you out quickly.

If you observe that you’re exceedingly exhausted at the end of the day, hearing loss may be to blame.

6. Trouble hearing in groups

Early stage hearing loss usually doesn’t present itself during one-on-one conversations or in quiet settings. Most often, hearing loss only becomes an issue in the presence of background noise or in group situations.

7. Not hearing alarms or calls

Hearing loss is usually difficult to notice or detect as it grows little by little every year. Oftentimes, friends and family members will notice the hearing loss before the person suffering from it does.

But there are some warning signs you can keep an eye out for, including the inability to hear alarms or calls, the doorbell, or the TV at normal volume.

8. Trouble hearing movie dialogue

With hearing loss, you may have particular difficulty hearing the dialogue in tv shows and movies. That’s because the majority of cases of hearing loss impact high-frequency sounds to the largest degree, and speech is a high-frequency sound.


It’s never too soon to care for your hearing health. If you encounter any of these symptoms, schedule a consultation with your local hearing care professional.

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