Woman with hearing loss holding her hand to her ear

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

Not quite. While it’s true that your chances of acquiring 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 direct exposure to loud sound 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 crucial to recognize the signs as they’re frequently subtle and difficult to perceive.

Here are 8 silent signs of hearing loss that should prompt you to schedule a hearing test.

1. Ringing in the ears

Have you ever arrived home from a booming concert and observed a ringing or buzzing in your ears?

If that’s the case, that means you’ve injured the nerve cells of hearing in your inner ear. If it’s only taken place a few times, the harm is probably transient and trivial. However, continued exposure or one-time exposure to very loud sounds could generate irreversible 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 damage. And if skipping future concerts is not a possibility for you, your hearing specialist can help you prevent additional damage with personalized earplugs.

2. Balance issues

Your hearing and balance are intricately connected. In fact, a large element of your ability to remain balanced is a consequence of sophisticated 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 those with hearing loss were three times more likely to have a history of falling.

3. Memory impairment

Your short-term or working memory is rather 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 at a later time when you can’t remember important information.

4. Painful sounds

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

The technical term for this is hyperacusis, and you’ll want to talk to a hearing professional if the issue continues or becomes intolerable.

5. Listening exhaustion

Just imagine spending the day attempting to determine meaning from half-heard words and sentences and responding to questions you didn’t entirely hear. That level of attention can wear you out fast.

If you notice you’re far too tired 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 person-to-person conversations or in tranquil settings. More commonly, hearing loss only becomes a problem in the presence of background noise or in group situations.

7. Not hearing calls or alarms

Hearing loss is very often difficult to notice or detect as it grows little by little every year. Oftentimes, friends and family members will notice the hearing loss prior to the person suffering from it does.

But there are some warning signs you can look out for, such as the inability to hear alarms or phone calls, the doorbell, or the TV at normal volume.

8. Trouble hearing movie dialogue

With hearing loss, you may have particular problems hearing the dialogue in shows and movies. That’s because most cases of hearing loss affect high-frequency sounds to the highest degree, and speech is a high-frequency sound.


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

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