What are the signs of hearing loss?

Author thumbnail Charlotte Jones  |  Published 19 January 2023  | Updated 16 May 2024  | 5 mins read

A couple talking and having tea.

Hearing loss is something that usually occurs gradually over a long period of time, the result of which means it can often sneak up on people, and is sometimes disregarded until the symptoms worsen. 

But how can you spot the signs of hearing loss early? Read on to find out more.

What is hearing loss

When we hear, sound signals are transmitted to our brains via our ears and the tiny hair cells within them. However, when these hair cells deteriorate, so do the pathways to the brain, which is when hearing loss occurs.

What are the types of hearing loss?

Typically, hearing loss falls into two main categories; these are known as conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss. In some cases, hearing loss can also occur as a combination of the two: this is called mixed hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear or cochlea. It is most often associated with ageing, however it can also be caused by noise exposure or certain medications. 

Conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss occurs due to a blockage in the ear canal, from things such as ear wax or foreign bodies. It can also be caused by damage to the eardrum including perforations or issues with the middle ear cavity or bones. 

What are the signs of hearing loss?

Very often, it is our nearest and dearest who spot the signs of hearing loss before we notice it ourselves, but there are some signs we can look out for which may indicate it is time to book a hearing test.

A man watching a film on his TV.

Turn it up The volume of the television or radio is usually turned right up, perhaps even to the point that other people complain about it being too loud.

Say that again A hearing-impaired individual often asks people to repeat themselves, or those around them may find themselves having to repeat something several times before it’s acknowledged.

Why is everyone mumbling? To someone living with hearing loss, it can seem like everyone mumbles these days. In reality, they are losing the ability to distinguish certain sounds in speech, which makes it sound as though those around them are not enunciating clearly.

Understanding speech Due to difficulties in understanding speech, someone with hearing problems usually prefers to face the person they are talking to. Watching the speaker’s lips and facial expressions helps them understand what is being said.

Phone calls Relying on watching a speaker’s face can make telephone conversations extremely difficult. They can be extremely frustrating for both parties, which may mean they are eventually avoided altogether.

Avoiding noisy environmentsIndividuals with hearing loss may choose to avoid noisy environments, including social gatherings. High levels of background noise can make it even more difficult to pick out what a single person is saying, so even a conversation around a busy dinner table can feel very isolating.

A worker using a jackhammer.

Temporary hearing loss: signs, symptoms and what to do

Unlike the types of hearing loss we mentioned above, temporary hearing loss occurs very differently and can be a result of ear infections, exposure to very loud noises, swimmer’s ear, or ear wax build-up. These are all treatable conditions with the help of a medical professional, and your hearing levels should return to normal following treatment.

You may also experience sudden hearing loss, which is when you are suddenly unable to hear properly. If you experience this, you must act quickly. In the first instance you should seek medical attention. Often sudden hearing loss can be treatable and resolved quickly, yet it is important not to ignore it. Once seen by a medical professional, our audiologists are here to help you with any further treatment you may need. This might be for a wax removal appointment, hearing test or hearing protection appointment.

If you want to learn more whether your hearing loss is permanent or temporary, check out our guide on “How To Tell if Hearing Loss is Permanent or Temporary“.

What are the effects of untreated hearing loss?

Although hearing loss affects an individual physically, the subsequent impact on communication and socialising means it has significant psychological consequences as well. It can be an incredibly isolating and frustrating condition to live with and, if left untreated, it can lead to cognitive decline and increased likelihood of developing dementia

This is why hearing loss is better addressed as soon as possible.

Hearing aids work with our ears to efficiently send the sound signals to our brains, and help to slow down the further development of hearing loss, keeping us connected to those we hold closest.

What should you do if you suspect hearing loss?

If you suspect that you or someone you know may have hearing loss, or you’ve noticed one or more of these signs, then it could be time to book a hearing test. 

With The Hearing Care Partnership, you can book a FREE fully comprehensive hearing test with one of our skilled audiologists nationwide. The sooner a hearing loss is addressed, the easier it is to correct, so why not get in touch today?