Woman with hearing loss holding her hand to her ear

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

Not exactly. While it’s a fact that your chances of acquiring hearing loss increase as you age, you can, in fact, develop hearing loss at any age.

As stated 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 strike at any age, it’s essential to recognize the indicators as they’re commonly subtle and tough to notice.

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 very loud concert and observed a ringing or humming in your ears?

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

If the ringing in your ears continues, you should arrange a hearing test as this is one of the initial signs of hearing problems. And if bypassing future concerts is not an option for you, your hearing consultant can help you prevent additional injury with custom-made earplugs.

2. Balance issues

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

If you notice that you’ve been more clumsy lately, the problem may in fact 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 handle only a few items for a short duration. That means you don’t have time to catch up on missed words during fast moving conversations.

With hearing loss, speech comprehension suffers as you can entirely miss or misconstrue the speaker’s words or statement. This manifests at a later time when you can’t call to mind significant information.

4. Painful sounds

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

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

5. Listening fatigue

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

If you observe that 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 normally doesn’t present itself during person-to-person discussions or in quiet settings. 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 tough to notice or detect as it develops incrementally every year. Oftentimes, friends and family members will notice the hearing loss prior to the person suffering from it does.

But there are some subtle warning signs you can watch for, including the inability to hear alarms or phone calls, the doorbell, or the television at normal volume.

8. Trouble hearing movie dialogue

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


It’s never too early to care for your hearing health. If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, schedule an appointment with your local hearing care professional.