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Woman with hearing loss holding her hand to her ear

Hearing loss is only a problem for older people, right?

Not quite. While it’s a fact that your odds of developing hearing loss increase as you 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 direct exposure to loud sounds at work and during leisure activities. And that includes 1 in 14 generation Xers, age 29-40, who already have hearing loss.

Considering hearing loss can hit at any age, it’s important to understand the indicators as they’re typically subtle and hard to detect.

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

1. Ringing in the ears

Have you ever come home from a noisy live concert and noticed a ringing or buzzing in your ears?

If yes, that indicates you’ve harmed the nerve cells of hearing in your inner ear. If it’s only transpired a couple of times, the harm is probably transient and insignificant. However, continual exposure or one-time direct exposure to very loud sounds could create irreparable damage and hearing loss.

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

2. Balance problems

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

If you find that you’ve been more clumsy as of late, the problem may actually 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 problems

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

With hearing loss, speech comprehension is compromised as you can entirely miss or misunderstand the speaker’s words or statement. This manifests later when you can’t call to mind important information.

4. Painful sounds

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

The medical term for this is hyperacusis, and you’ll want to contact a hearing professional if the problem continues or becomes intolerable.

5. Listening exhaustion

Think of spending the day working hard to decipher meaning from half-heard words and sentences and responding to questions you didn’t completely hear. That amount of attention can wear you out fast.

If you notice you’re excessively fatigued at the end of the day, hearing loss may be to blame.

6. Trouble hearing in groups

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

7. Not hearing alarms or calls

Hearing loss is usually tough to notice or detect as it grows progressively every year. Oftentimes, friends and family members will notice the hearing loss before the person suffering from it does.

But there are some subtle warning signs you can watch for, including the inability to hear alarms or calls, the doorbell, or the TV at normal volume.

8. Difficulty hearing movie dialogue

With hearing loss, you may have particular problems hearing the dialogue 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 care for your hearing health. If you encounter any of these signs or symptoms, arrange an appointment with your local hearing professional.