Signs of hearing loss are not always obvious… when it’s your own. Learn the most common and uncommon clues.
Signs of hearing loss sure look a lot different on someone else than when it’s happening to YOU.
You may already suspect it. You may even know it. You may be denying it. Y’know, pushing off dealing with a potential hearing loss another year or so because you can’t be that “old” yet.
I really get that last thing. After all, I’m getting older and experiencing a number of *changes* that also do not thrill me/put off long as possible in processing/handling. It started several years ago when I realized my vision had changed so drastically.
Yep. I feel you.
To be perfectly transparent, however, hearing loss is not something I have experienced. Rather I was BORN with the amount of hearing (deafness) I currently have which is categorized as “severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss”, even though I uh… didn’t.
Point is, I’ve got the deaf and hard of hearing world pretty well mapped out, should you need a guide/travel agent.
But before you hop on that train.. check out these common signs of hearing loss. You might have it if:
1. People comment on your TV volume.
And they do this by yelling and pointing. Spouses, family members. Neighbors that come to your window. This is something that has probably evolved over time. If you live alone, you especially may not be as aware of it. Guests may be more polite about the volume, but you can tell by their faces scrunching up or nostrils flaring. However, I’m going to bet that anyone who is related to you will feel free to let you know exactly how loud it is.
2. Everyone mumbles.
Kids today, right?! Enunciation is quite the lost art, I know. While that may be true, if you have a hearing loss, that may seem to be the case with MOST people, young and old. And the people on TV. And the movies. You might hear their voices just fine, but understanding WHAT someone is saying is a whole ‘nother bag of apples.
3. You startle easily.
If you find yourself wondering why you co-workers are suddenly sneaking up behind you or running into people coming around the corner, it’s simple: you may not hear their footsteps, and you’re still expecting to hear them before seeing the person there. Runners know what this is when they come up on a slower runner wearing headphones. I’ve seen people jump out of their skin! For safety’s sake, try and ramp up visual awareness. Deaf eyes are known for our hyper-laser-like abilities, see. And we can smell you a mile away too, so remember less-is-more in the perfume department.
4. You find yourself struggling to understand people on the phone.
Especially when trying to understand someone saying numbers or spelling out names or streets. The phone presents some unique challenges. Again, it’s being able to discriminate WHAT someone is saying (rather than just hearing sound) AND on the phone we don’t get the benefit of seeing body language to convey tone, pointing or hand gestures, mouth movements for lip reading – we’re only getting that info ONE WAY. With numbers and individual letters, many of them sound alike (s/f, 5/9) and unless someone is spelling a word or a number sequence familiar to you, they’re individual / random so we’re less able to piece it all together like you can in a sentence when you hear other parts of it. That’s why sometimes I won’t understand someone and then a half hour later I randomly say, “ohhh!” out loud to the not-privvy-to-earlier-conversation barista at Starbucks.
5. You find yourself bluffing though conversations rather than asking for repeats (again).
Deaf people are famous for nodding a lot. When someone is talking to me a LOT and I can’t really understand them but they’re prattling on, I admit it, I nod at them, or mimic their expressions. It’s SUCH a bad habit, but the instinct to respond positively in hopes that’ll wrap it up is strong. Of course this will backfire if someone decides to test me asking me if I tooted or have diarrhea. Oh yep, mm hmm.
6. People mention you are speaking loudly. (Or too softly).
In the former, you are simply speaking loud enough to hear yourself. When hearing levels diminish, you’re naturally inclined to pump up the volume. In the case of the latter, you’ve already been told the former so you’re overcompensating figuring you should speak at levels you CAN’T hear to keep up the ruse. Big mind game.
7. You have a hard time following the sermon in church, lectures, meetings.
..places you didn’t have trouble following before. Again, you’re missing the WHAT in what’s being said, not necessarily the sounds. People also have a tendency to fall asleep in places like this which CAN be a sign of not understanding (because it’s boring then and the indecipherable tones lull us to sleep) – but I wouldn’t go completely on that alone. Some people just have a knack for the public sleeping thing.
8. People are texting you they’re at your door.
Because you didn’t hear them ringing your bell, obviously. See above regarding phone use, but with the doorbell it’s worse. You get one tone, one shot unless it’s a relative and they start banging before they remember it’s the 21st century and you’re unquestionably on your phone. Whoever invented camera doorbells was onto this.
9. You leave social visits feeling like you did most of the talking.
When you’re struggling to understand others (either one-on-one or in a group), at some point, your brain may do an unconscious “aha!” in realizing that you do NOT struggle to understand when YOU are doing the talking. When you are talking, everyone is looking at you. Questions/feedback are directed to you. When someone else takes their turn, you have less control in the interaction. So, no it’s not (necessarily) about you needing to be the center of attention, it’s your mind and spirit saying, “hey I like to interact too” and adjusting accordingly.
10. You don’t seem to enjoy larger gatherings as much.
..because you don’t get as much out of them. Now I know what you’re thinking. This is an age thing too. Going out and partying in a club is not something I’m chomping at the bit to do nowadays either but for people who are experiencing new-ish hearing loss, certain sounds are distorted or can be particularly bothersome. Also the more people there are to interact with, the more challenging communication is going to be. A host of other factors that make for a party-like experience (decorations, music, new people) can further hinder our ability to understand others. Which of course can make you feel like a grouchy ol’ skunk.
(Assuming you’ve read this far) if you’ve found yourself nodding to quite a few of these signs of hearing loss, my advice is: don’t assume anything. Don’t grab an over the counter hearing aid just yet. But don’t stay in limbo, either. It’s important to find out where you stand and what treatments are available. Asking your general practitioner about a hearing evaluation is a great place to start.
But change is hard and having evidence that you SHOULD do something that you’re not ready for emotionally is even harder. But at some point you might decide that staying where you are is more painful than the unknown ahead.
It’s important to know that not each of the signs of hearing loss means someone has one. Not every hearing loss is permanent or can benefit from hearing aids, either.
But I would say if you’re experiencing a few of these signs of hearing loss you should consider getting yourself checked out.
If you do have a hearing loss, I’d like to think you are in good company! Feel free to check out the resources on this site, reach out to me, or join our support group!
This is your journey. Your life. Don’t you wait to live it.
Victoria AddingtonSeptember 14, 2020
I appreciate that you listed the signs of hearing loss. Lately, my mother has been having a hard time understanding what we say and usually requests to repeat what we say. I had no idea that hearing only mumbling sounds whenever someone is talking can be a sign of hearing loss. With that said, I’ve decided to accompany her to an audiologist for diagnosis and treatment.
Jennifer StuessySeptember 14, 2020
I’m so glad the list helped!
Anna DavisSeptember 15, 2020
I’m glad you pointed out that struggling to follow group conversations can be difficult for people with hearing loss. My family gets together for Sunday dinner every weekend, and I have noticed that my dad has a tough time getting involved in the discussion lately. It may be a good idea for him to have his hearing tested since these kinds of issues run in his family.
Jennifer StuessySeptember 15, 2020
If he’s open to it, definitely! Groups are tough for sure.