How to Spot the Signs You Need a Hearing Test

It's not uncommon to suffer hearing loss, especially as a person ages.

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Could you be experiencing hearing loss? You may be wondering if you find yourself asking people to repeat what they say often or when you find yourself unable to understand conversations in a noisy location. It's not uncommon to suffer hearing loss, especially as a person ages. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders shares that about 15% of adults report some trouble hearing, which is about 37.5 million people. About 28.8 million adults could benefit from the use of hearing aids.

That could seem scary – most people don’t want to think they need a hearing aid. Yet, today’s hearing aids are highly reliable, hard to see, and simple to use. More so, utilizing a hearing aid could drastically improve your quality of life even if you don’t think you need one. 

Common Signs of Hearing Loss 

The following are some of the most common signs that you may need a hearing test. Not everyone has sudden, drastic hearing loss. Most people see their hearing progressively worsen over time, which can make it hard to notice until it is severe. Yet, the sooner you seek treatment, the better. If you see any of these signs of hearing loss, it's time to set up a hearing test.

#1: Conversations are difficult 

Holding a conversation with another person may have become challenging for you. You may find yourself having to ask someone to repeat themselves often or feel as though you just don’t understand their jumbled words. It certainly could be that they are mumbling, but when this is happening often and with more than one person, that’s an indication a hearing test is beneficial.

You may find that even in a quiet situation, it’s hard to understand what others are saying. Add noise to the room, such as in a restaurant or an office setting, and it becomes impossible and frustrating to hear well. These are all indications a hearing test is warranted.

#2: Other people tell you the TV is loud

Do you find yourself ticking up the volume on your TV or radio often? It may be that it’s just hard to hear because of the noise around, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, it’s because your hearing isn’t what it should be any longer. 

One way you may notice this is when someone comes into the room after you’ve been watching TV and tells you the volume is so loud. You may be the one that needs to have the volume increased while you are in the car, while others don't seem to need it. This could suggest a problem with your hearing or a buildup of ear wax that needs removed. 

#3: There’s ringing in your ears

Most people will hear some ringing in their ears from time to time, but when it comes on often, that’s an indication of tinnitus. You may experience a ringing sound or a buzz. Some people also experience a screeching sound in their ears. This is often the case after you have some loud noise exposure. 

If the ringing goes away within a short period of time, that may not be a concern as long as it does not continue. However, for those that may experience it often or it does not go away for a long time, that’s an indication of tinnitus that will lead to hearing loss. About 50% of seniors experience tinnitus, along with hearing loss.

#4: It’s hard to understand speech in areas with background noise

A loud rock concert may be a time when it's expected that you will not be able to hear well when someone is talking with you. A crowded restaurant should not be unless the music is turned way up. If you find that it's hard for you to understand a conversation even in moderate environments, that’s a concern. 

In these situations, you may feel as though other people are mumbling. You just want them to speak clearer or louder. It is often easy to feel like the other person is the problem, but if this happens often, it could indicate a hearing issue for you. Do you tell people to speak up or to speak clearly? You may even find yourself just nodding your head because you can’t hear them. Trying to filter out their voice over the background noise just seems impossible. 

#5: You don’t enjoy social situations like you used to

One of the biggest concerns for many people is their inability to communicate well as the condition worsens. This often leads to withdrawal. It's hard to enjoy a night with friends at a restaurant or going to see a play or movie when you just cannot hear well. You may have resigned to just spending more time at home where you can better control the environment. 

If you feel a social situation feeling exhausted and fatigued, and you didn’t really exert yourself, that’s an indication that your brain is working in overdrive to try to understand what others are saying. You may even have some physical symptoms from this. You may feel tension in your neck and shoulders. Some people also feel headaches. You may even have a backache from having to twist to hear others speak.

#6: You don’t hear some of the most normal, common sounds each day

You may not hear the doorbell ring. Someone called you, but you never heard your phone ring. That could be a distraction in some situations, but other times, it could be because you are just not hearing well. Does your alarm clock no longer wake you up? Do you find that you cannot hear the microwave sound? 

This could seem like no big deal initially, but when it worsens, it becomes a very big concern. Imagine not hearing a car horn or an ambulance trying to cross through an intersection. You may not hear your loud one calling for help from another area of the home. These are concerns you shouldn't ignore.

#7: Your family has told you to get a hearing test

It’s never easy to hear this, but it is likely to be a big concern at this point. If you have more than one family member telling you that you need to get a hearing test, that means they are noticing symptoms that should not be ignored. That could be:

  • You not responding to them when they speak to you.
  • A lack of ability to answer questions clearly, perhaps not understanding what they say.
  • The TV volume is always so high
  • Holding a conversation over the phone is impossible
  • You ask them to repeat themselves often

If your loved ones are encouraging you to get a hearing test, do so. The best case is you can tell them they were wrong!

#8: Phone conversations are very hard

Do you hate to answer the phone because you cannot hear well? This is not an uncommon situation when hearing becomes damaged over time. Hearing loss is most noticeable when you cannot hear conversations in a quiet space. If the room is quiet, but you cannot converse well over the phone, that's a concern you should not ignore.

You may have tried to increase the volume on your phone. You may have asked the other person to speak louder. No matter what you’re experiencing, having the ability to speak on the phone is important for your quality of life. If you cannot do so well, that could mean you are unable to talk to loved ones, which could lead to depression.

#9: You feel the onset of depression

Not treating hearing loss over a period of time will lead to withdrawing and isolating from family and friends. It may even become a chore to go to the grocery store because you’re worried about having to talk to other people. You may stop going to religious services, dinners with friends, and social clubs because it’s just hard to hear.

Many people develop depression or anxiety as a result of this. It’s not because you don’t want to engage with others, but it’s become so hard to communicate that you feel you cannot do so well. You may just no longer feel like things are enjoyable for you as they used to be.

Often, if you take a few minutes to jot down some instances of when it’s been challenging to hear, you may find there are numerous examples of how your hearing has limited you in your life. Could it have impacted your inability to advance your career? Has your hearing loss caused family members to withdraw from you or stop calling you?

If You’re Questioning It – Get a Hearing Test

Even if you’re not sure if you need a hearing test, one of the best ways to alleviate this uncertainty is to set up a hearing test with a local audiologist. This straightforward, noninvasive test can answer most of your questions in about an hour. Contact us to learn more about doing so.

Written by
Reviewed by
Dr. Cliff Olson
Founder & Audiologist
Read full bio

Dr. Cliff Olson is an Audiologist and founder of Applied Hearing Solutions in Phoenix, Arizona. A former Marine Corps Scout Sniper, he left the military to earn his Audiology doctoral degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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