A man is unable to hear or see and is surrounded by question marks.

It may seem like it’d be obvious, but hearing loss tends to be gradual, so how can one know they have it? There’s no sharp pain to serve as a warning sign. You don’t lose consciousness or make additional trips to the toilet once it happens, either. It’s safe to say the signs of hearing loss are more subtle than other age-related illnesses like diabetes or heart disease.

Even so, there are indications should you know what you’re looking for. It is a matter of paying attention to how you hear and the effect any change might be having on your life. Consider the ways you’re able to identify hearing loss for you or somebody you care about.

A Change in Conversation

The effect on socializing offers a number of the most telling indications. For instance, if the first thing out of your mouth during most conversations is “what?” That should be a sign you aren’t understanding words well. Asking the people that you speak to tell you again what they said is something they are very likely to notice before you do, too, so pay attention to how folks respond to having conversations with you.

When speaking to a group of a couple of people, you may have trouble keeping track of things. You’re missing pieces of what everyone says, so you aren’t part of the conversation. You can not ask everyone speaking to repeat themselves, either, so you just get lost. Over time, you hide from group conversations or stand there not listening to what is said, since it’s just too confusing once you do.

The Background Noise Drowns Everything Out

If the only thing you hear these days is background sound, then it is time for a hearing exam. This is a frequent sign of hearing loss because you’re not able to filter out sounds like a fan blowing off or an air conditioner running. It gets to the point at which you can’t hear what people are saying to you since it becomes lost in the background sound.

The TV Creeps Up and Doesn’t Stop

It is simple to excuse the need to flip the TV volume up on this dying box because of a busy room, but when it happens all the time, it’s most likely an indication of gradual hearing loss. When everybody else starts telling you that you have the TV or computer volume up too high, you need to wonder why that is, and, probably, come to terms with the fact that your hearing is not like it was at one time.

You Find Yourself Watching Their Lips

Lip reading is a coping mechanism for missing words. Gradual hearing loss begins with the loss of tough sounds. Words which contain specific letters will be faulty. Your brain might automatically shift your attention to the person’s lips to fix the problem. It is likely that you don’t even understand you do it before somebody tells you or suddenly seems uncomfortable when talking to you.

Then There’s the Clicking

It can be a ringing, clicking, buzzing or the sound of wind in your ears — medically this is called tinnitus, and it is a sign of significant hearing loss. These sounds are not real, but auditory hallucinations that only you hear. For many people, they are just bothersome, but for others tinnitus is painful. If you have it, then you certainly have hearing loss that you need to address.

Hearing problems aren’t always evident to the individual experiencing them, but it’s to others. Listen to what your loved ones are telling you about your hearing loss. Consider, also, other medical problems that can give rise to the problem like high blood pressure or medication you take that can damage your ears and discover if age-related hearing loss is a hereditary problem you should be worried about.

If you do come to this conclusion, visit your doctor and get a professional hearing test for confirmation. Hearing loss isn’t the worst health issue you could have, but for many, it will mean it’s time to consider hearing aids.