This could at least in part be tied to the fact that age-related hearing loss—still the most common kind—tends to manifest extremely slowly. Patients experiencing it tend to lose their hearing so gradually that they don't even realize it's happening until suddenly they can hardly hear at all. 

With that said, even though the early signs of hearing loss can be difficult to recognize, that doesn't mean it's impossible to detect. There are always subtle clues that you're due for an audiology exam. So with that said, here are the ten major (yet subtle) signs that you're suffering from hearing loss. 

Everybody's Mumbling

People don't seem to speak as clearly as they used to. 

Maybe it seems like everyone who talks to you is mumbling. You can hear certain parts of their speech—the vowels—but the rest is a jumbled mess. People with higher-pitched voices, like women and children, seem especially bad for it. 

If it seems like every single person you speak to isn't properly enunciating, it's very likely that the problem is you (or more specifically, your ears).

"Sorry, I Don't Follow"

Even if you can generally hear what people are saying, you may find yourself occasionally getting lost in conversation. If you aren't the kind of person who regularly catches themselves daydreaming, this could signify the early onset of cognitive decline. However, it could just as easily mean your hearing is going. 

When you start to lose your hearing, your brain begins working overtime to fill in the gaps—as a result, it becomes harder to follow the flow of conversation. The problem becomes even worse when multiple people are talking at once. 

Background Noise is a Nightmare

As anyone who's tried to carry a conversation at a crowded bar will tell you, background noise can be distracting even if your ears are completely healthy. Typically, however, we can filter out and ignore environmental sound up to a certain threshold. Someone suffering from hearing loss begins to lose that ability—they can no longer screen out noise as effectively as they once did.

"No, I Can't Hear You Now"

Some people don't like the phone because they're painfully introverted. Others, however, find the experience exhausting for a different reason. It's difficult to make out what other people in a call are saying, and even simple conversations are taxing. 

This is another major symptom of impending hearing loss. See, the sounds transmitted by a phone don't perfectly match with human speech. For someone with healthy hearing, this isn't a problem.

For someone with hearing loss, however, it makes a bad situation significantly worse. 

A Constant Ringing Sensation

Although it's not always associated with hearing loss, tinnitus often precludes or accompanies many forms of hearing impairment. You've likely heard of the condition, at least in passing. A constant, high-pitched ringing in the ears that becomes significantly worse the quieter your surroundings are. 

It's important to note that ringing is not the only way this can manifest—tinnitus can also sound like a strange humming sound, a constant dull roar, a rhythmic thumping sound, or a strange hiss. 

Uneven Noise Levels

In rare cases, hearing loss can lead to hyperacusis, or hypersensitivity to certain types of noise. The idea that losing your hearing may amplify certain sounds seems almost counterintuitive. But remember what we said earlier—when you start to lose your hearing, your brain tends to overcompensate. 

Sometimes, that means exaggerating certain sounds that you might otherwise never notice.

People Are Noticing Something is Wrong

Are your family members constantly telling you to turn down the TV? Do friends regularly comment on how often they have to repeat themselves? In many cases, a patient's loved ones are the first to notice the signs of hearing loss.

Listen to yours.

You're Starting to Forget Conversations

Do you sometimes feel like conversations go in one ear and out the other? Once again, the issue might not be your memory. Between your brain working overtime and the fact that it's harder to recall conversations you couldn't clearly hear, you may feel like you constantly forget what people tell you. 

Distractions Everywhere—And You Can't Seem to Ignore Them

Hearing loss is mentally exhausting, and those suffering from it tend to have less mental energy to dedicate to other tasks. This not only makes it harder to focus when you're talking to someone but makes it more challenging to stay on task in general. So pay attention to your distraction because it could be telling you something. 

You Have Trouble Maintaining Your Balance

Finally, hearing loss can very rarely manifest alongside balance issues. There are two reasons for this. First, because the inner ear manages equilibrium, anything that compromises its functionality can make it difficult to stay upright.

Second, and more importantly, most people don't realize the role hearing plays in orienting ourselves. 

Do you suspect you may be suffering from hearing loss? Contact an audiologist for an exam today. Connect Hearing can get you started with a free consultation