Woman with hearing loss holding her hand to her ear

Hearing loss is exclusively a problem for older people, right?

Not exactly. While it’s a fact that your chances of developing hearing loss increase with age, you can, in truth, 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 sound at work and during leisure activities. And that includes 1 in 14 generation Xers, age 29-40, who already have hearing loss.

Given that hearing loss can strike at any age, it’s imperative to understand the signs as they’re often discreet and tough to perceive.

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

1. Ringing or buzzing in the ears

Have you ever come home from a very loud concert and noticed a ringing or humming in your ears?

If so, that indicates you’ve harmed the nerve cells of hearing in your inner ear. If it’s only happened a few times, the harm is more than likely short-term and minimal. But continued exposure or one-time exposure to very loud sounds could produce permanent damage and hearing loss.

If the ringing in your ears persists, you should schedule a hearing test as this is one of the initial signs of hearing damage. And if bypassing future live shows is not an option for you, your hearing professional can help you avoid further damage with custom made earplugs.

2. Balance problems

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

If you detect 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 found 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 problems

Your short-term or working memory is rather limited, able to manage only a few items for a short time frame. That indicates that 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 message. This manifests later when you can’t recall important information.

4. Painful sounds

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

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

5. Listening fatigue

Think of spending the day attempting to figure out meaning from half-heard words and sentences and replying to questions you didn’t entirely hear. That degree of attention can wear you out quickly.

If you notice you’re far too exhausted at the end of the day, hearing loss may be to blame.

6. Trouble hearing in groups

Early stage hearing loss typically doesn’t present itself during person-to-person discussions or in tranquil environments. More commonly, hearing loss only becomes a problem in the presence of background noise or in group situations.

7. Not hearing calls or alarms

Hearing loss is most of the time tough to notice or detect as it grows incrementally each 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 look out for, such as the inability to hear alarms or calls, the doorbell, or the television at normal volume.

8. Difficulty hearing movie dialogue

With hearing loss, you may have particular difficulty hearing the dialogue in shows and movies. That’s because most instances of hearing loss affect high-frequency sounds to the greatest degree, and speech is a high-frequency sound.

It’s never too early to take care of your hearing health. If you encounter any of these signs or symptoms, arrange a consultation with your local hearing care professional.

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