What Are the Symptoms of Hearing Loss?

Shaeleen M Fagre, AuD

Audiologist at the University of Minnesota

04 December 2020

Symptoms of hearing loss can be difficult to identify, particularly if the onset is gradual. Many times a loved one notices a problem before the person with the hearing loss does. Symptoms of hearing loss may include difficulty hearing in background noise. Examples of noisy environments may include social settings with several people speaking at once, such as restaurants, grocery stores, churches, movie theaters, sporting events. Hearing in the car can be especially difficult. Road noise drowns out conversation, and at the same time, it’s impossible to face the person you are speaking with.

Without visual cues, you may find it difficult to hear conversational speech in the car. All of us, even those of us with normal hearing, benefit from good communication strategies such facing the person you are speaking with. Those of us with hearing loss have an especially difficult time hearing what someone is saying when that person is not facing you. You may find that you are unable to follow conversation without face-to-face visual cues and particularly struggle when someone speaks to you from another room. Additionally, you may find that you need more volume than others to listen to the television or radio.

Another symptom of hearing loss is feeling as if people seem to mumble. You may frequently find yourself thinking “if so-and-so could just enunciate or slow down, I’d have no problem hearing.” Frequently asking for repetition is common. It’s possible you may not even hear that someone is speaking to you in the first place, or you may find that you frequently ask people repeat themselves because you weren’t able to understand what they said to you.

A general difficulty following conversation can cause to listening fatigue is another symptom of hearing loss. Many people tell me they are so exhausted from filling in the blanks of what they cannot hear, that they prefer to just not even try to participate in conversation. Hearing loss can be exhausting to both the speaker and the listener. Isolation and withdrawal from social activities are quite common when a hearing impaired person finds engaging in conversation to be too difficult to keep up with.

Tinnitus, which can be described as a ringing or buzzing sound in the ears, is another symptom of hearing loss. Research indicates that hearing loss is the most common cause of tinnitus. However, it is important to note that there are a variety of other factors that cause tinnitus. If you are experiencing some or all of the above symptoms, speak with your doctor to schedule a hearing evaluation. This is the only way to know for sure if the symptoms you may be noticing are possibly related to hearing loss.