Woman with hearing loss holding her hand to her ear

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

Not quite. While it’s true 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.

Given that hearing loss can hit at any age, it’s crucial to understand the signs as they’re commonly discreet and difficult to detect.

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

1. Ringing or buzzing in the ears

Have you ever returned home from a 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 transpired a few times, the damage is most likely transient and mild. However, continued exposure or one-time exposure to very loud sounds could generate irreparable damage and hearing loss.

If you continue to hear ringing in your ears, you should book a hearing test as this is one of the first signs of hearing damage. And if skipping upcoming concerts is not a viable alternative for you, your hearing specialist can help you prevent further damage with custom-fit earplugs.

2. Balance problems

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

If you detect that you’ve been more clumsy lately, the problem may in fact 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 impairment

Your short-term or working memory is very limited, able to manage only a few items for a short amount of time. That indicates that you don’t have time to catch up on missed words during fast moving discussions.

With hearing loss, speech comprehension is compromised as you can completely miss or misinterpret the speaker’s words or message. This manifests at a later time when you can’t remember important information.

4. Painful sounds

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

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

5. Listening exhaustion

Imagine spending the day working hard to figure out meaning from half-heard words and phrases and responding to questions you didn’t fully hear. That degree of attention can wear you out fast.

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

6. Difficulty hearing in groups

Early stage hearing loss usually doesn’t present itself during one-on-one discussions or in tranquil environments. More commonly, hearing loss only becomes a problem in the presence of background noise or in group settings.

7. Not hearing calls or alarms

Hearing loss is very often hard to notice or identify as it develops little by little every year. Oftentimes, friends and family members will take note of the hearing loss before the person suffering from it does.

However, there are some subtle warning signs you can keep an eye out for, such as the inability to hear alarms or phone calls, the doorbell, or the TV at normal volume.

8. Difficulty hearing movie dialogue

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

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