3 Unexpected Signs of Early Hearing Loss

Digital warning sign detecting early signs of hearing loss.

Here’s a common scenario:

You’re at the dinner table and having a conversation with your spouse, but you didn’t quite get the last thing they said. You ask them to repeat it, but still can’t understand what was said. For whatever reason, you just can’t distinguish what your spouse is saying from all the background noise of your kids’ chatter. Finally, you just nod and vaguely agree with what you think your spouse is talking about and quickly change the subject.

Sound familiar? While some people call this “hard of hearing,” it’s actually an early warning sign of hearing loss. Either way, though, you understand that there’s something wrong with your hearing. But what about the less obvious, unexpected symptoms of early hearing loss? Here are three signs you should look out for.

You Avoid Telephone Calls

Do you cringe every time the phone rings, or let calls go to voicemail and send a follow-up text that says “I saw you called, what’s up?” Well then, you’re either a Millennial or you may be in the early stages of hearing loss (maybe even both). This is also true if your phone volume is turned up to the max because you have trouble understanding what the person on the other end of the line is saying. New technology gives us a lot of ways to escape having to talk on the phone – which is great if you’re feeling anti-social – but if you engage that technology because it’s too hard to carry on a conversation on the phone, you may want to make an appointment with a hearing specialist.

You’re Off Balance

Remember that your inner ear canal affects your balance, so it makes sense that if something is wrong with your balance, there might also be something going on with your hearing. If there’s something wrong with your inner ear, you may experience bouts of dizziness or lightheadedness, or in certain cases vertigo, which will feel like you’re spinning or moving even if you’re staying perfectly still. While balance issues could be unrelated to hearing loss, it’s still important to at least consult with a hearing specialist to make sure that the issues are not connected and that there’s not something more serious going on that could lead to permanent hearing loss.

You Stopped Making Eye Contact

This one is a little less obvious but makes total sense. When you’re having a conversation with someone, you’d normally make eye contact because your ears are doing your hearing for you – but if you’re suffering from early-stage hearing loss, you may find yourself either subconsciously trying to lip read or staring off while concentrating harder on what is being said. Lip reading, even if you’re not trained in it, is the brain’s way of compensating for a lack of hearing, while in other cases you may just find yourself focusing more intently on what’s being said at the expense of other social cues. Pay attention the next time you have a conversation in a fairly noisy environment to see exactly how you’re communicating, and pursue a consultation with a hearing specialist if you’re having trouble keeping eye contact.

Luckily, discovering these hearing issues early can help fix the problem before it becomes too serious. You can visit a hearing specialist who can perform tests to pinpoint the exact problem, then prescribe a treatment plan. Sometimes hearing loss can be fixed easily, while other types of hearing loss can be treated with cochlear implants or hearing aids. Whatever the treatment plan may be, just remember that early detection is key to better results.

Page medically reviewed by Kevin St. Clergy, Audiologist, on May 29, 2020.

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