Woman with hearing loss holding her hand to her ear

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

Not quite. While it’s true that your odds of developing hearing loss increase with age, you can, in truth, 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 noise at work and during leisure activities. And that includes 1 in 14 generation Xers, age 29-40, who already have hearing loss.

Seeing as hearing loss can strike at any age, it’s essential to understand the signs as they’re generally subtle and difficult to detect.

Here are eight silent signs of hearing loss that should prompt you to arrange a hearing test.

1. Ringing in the ears

Have you ever arrived home from a very loud concert and noticed a ringing or humming in your ears?

If that’s the case, that indicates you’ve damaged the nerve cells of hearing in your inner ear. If it’s only taken place a couple of times, the damage is probably transient and modest. However, continual exposure or one-time direct exposure to very loud sounds could create permanent 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 initial signs of hearing damage. And if bypassing upcoming concerts is not a viable alternative for you, your hearing professional can help you avoid further injury with custom-fit earplugs.

2. Balance issues

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

If you detect that you’ve been more clumsy as of late, the issue may in fact 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.

3. Memory problems

Your short-term or working memory is rather limited, able to cope with only a few items for a short amount of time. That indicates 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 completely miss or misunderstand the speaker’s words or message. This manifests at a later time when you can’t call to mind important information.

4. Painful sounds

When you lose your hearing, you may become excessively 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 consult with a hearing professional if the issue persists or becomes intolerable.

5. Listening fatigue

Think of spending the day attempting to determine meaning from half-heard words and sentences and replying to questions you didn’t completely hear. That amount of attention can wear you out quickly.

If you discover that you’re exceedingly exhausted at the end of the day, hearing loss may be to blame.

6. Difficulty hearing in groups

Early stage hearing loss typically doesn’t present itself during person-to-person conversations or in quiet environments. Most often, 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 often difficult to notice or identify as it grows progressively each year. In many cases, friends and family members will take note of the hearing loss before the person suffering from it does.

But there are some warning signs you can keep an eye out for, including the inability to hear alarms or calls, the doorbell, or the television at normal volume.

8. Trouble hearing movie dialogue

With hearing loss, you may have particular trouble hearing the conversations in tv shows and movies. That’s because the majority of instances of hearing loss affect 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 experience any of these symptoms, arrange a consultation with your local hearing care professional.