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Six symptoms of hearing loss not to be ignored

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Struggling to hear? An audiologist shares six subtle signs that you could be losing your hearing — which shouldn’t be ignored.

Hearing loss isn’t like eyesight, where it’s far easier to notice a deterioration. The changes to hearing can often be subtle or gradual and you may not notice. It’s a myth, too, that hearing loss only affects the older population — the World Health Organisation has warned that one in four could be living with some degree of hearing loss by 2050. Here are six subtle signs you might be losing your hearing and what you can do about it.

In a clinic, a Korean doctor examines a patient's ears for hearing loss.
© Getty Images
1. You struggle to hear in a crowded room

Understanding speech in a noisy environment is a common problem for those with hearing loss and is known as the ‘cocktail party problem’. Ignoring other voices to focus on one is far more difficult when you have hearing loss and can be challenging and overwhelming.

2. You have to ask people to repeat themselves

Finding it hard to follow a conversation or asking people to repeat what they say could stem from the beginnings of a high-frequency hearing loss. This affects our ability to discern the sounds of speech and hear certain consonants.

3. Your hearing is muffled

Blocked ears can sound and feel like cotton wool balls in your ear and you may strain to hear others clearly. Often it’s temporary, but it can be a sign of conductive hearing loss — when the outer or middle ear is affected and sounds can’t travel normally to the inner ear. Visit a doctor or audiologist as soon as you can.

4. You have ringing in your ears

Ringing in your ears, or tinnitus, is common. Around 1 in 8 adults in the UK have tinnitus all the time or regularly. It’s often linked to hearing loss caused by normal ageing or exposure to loud noise. You might hear it in one or both ears. There are different things you can do to help manage your tinnitus effectively.

5. You find it hard to hear women or children

The cells that pick up high-pitched sounds are usually the first to fail, which is why it can make it harder for someone with a hearing loss to understand anyone with a high-pitched voice (usually women or children). It’s also the reason why you might not hear a microwave ping or birdsong. Often, people with this type of hearing loss have the feeling they can hear, but not understand.

6. You turn up the TV louder than others wants it to be

If you keep turning up the television, when your family or friends are complaining it’s too loud, it’s probably time to get your hearing checked.

Tami Harel is chief audiologist and director of clinical research, Nuance Hearing

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