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Woman with hearing loss holding her hand to her ear

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

Not quite. While it’s true that your odds of developing hearing loss increase as you age, you can, in fact, develop hearing loss at any age.

As reported by the NIDCD, 26 million Americans age 20 to 69 have high-frequency hearing loss from 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.

Since hearing loss can strike at any age, it’s important to recognize the signs as they’re often subtle and difficult to notice.

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

1. Ringing in the ears

Have you ever come home from a booming live concert and observed a ringing or humming in your ears?

If yes, that indicates you’ve injured the nerve cells of hearing in your inner ear. If it’s only transpired a couple of times, the damage is more than likely short-term and modest. However, continued exposure or one-time exposure to very loud sounds could create irreparable damage and hearing loss.

If you continue to hear ringing in your ears, you should set up a hearing test as this is one of the first signs of hearing problems. And if bypassing upcoming live shows is not a possibility for you, your hearing consultant can help you avoid additional damage with tailor-made earplugs.

2. Balance issues

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

If you detect 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 determined 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 quite limited, able to cope with only a few items for a short amount of time. That means you don’t have time to get caught 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 message. This manifests later when you can’t call to mind significant information.

4. Painful sounds

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

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

5. Listening exhaustion

Imagine spending the day trying to figure out meaning from half-heard words and sentences and replying to questions you didn’t fully hear. That level of attention can wear you out fast.

If you notice 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 quiet 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 usually difficult to notice or identify as it grows gradually every year. In many cases, 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 look out for, such as the inability to hear alarms or calls, the doorbell, or the television 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 most cases of hearing loss impact high-frequency sounds to the greatest degree, and speech is a high-frequency sound.

It’s never too early to take care of your hearing health. If you encounter any of these signs or symptoms, schedule a consultation with your local hearing care professional.