What Are the Early Warning Signs of Age-Related Hearing Loss?

At Spokane Care To Stay Home, we’re committed to providing quality in-home care services to seniors while also equipping them and their families with knowledge and resources to face aging’s unique health challenges. One such prevalent challenge is age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), presbycusis is one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults. Approximately a third of Americans between 65 and 74 have hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.

Presbycusis typically develops gradually, often making early detection a challenge. However, recognizing these early warning signs is critical for timely intervention, effective management of the condition, and maintaining a high quality of life. Let’s delve deeper into these early warning signs and understand what they might mean for you or your loved ones:

Difficulty Hearing High-Pitched Sounds

An early symptom of hearing loss often is trouble discerning high-pitched sounds, like the ring of a phone, the beep of a microwave, or the voices of women and young children. This difficulty can become more noticeable in situations where there is a lot of background noise. Individuals with hearing loss often comment that they can hear people speaking, but not what’s being said.

Trouble Understanding Speech in Noisy Environments

Background noise can exacerbate hearing loss symptoms. If following conversations in a noisy environment has become a struggle for you or a loved one, this could be an early warning sign. This difficulty can occur in various situations like crowded restaurants, family gatherings, or even watching TV when there’s additional background noise.

When hearing is compromised, your brain must work harder to filter out background noise and focus on speech. This phenomenon, known as the “cocktail party effect,” can lead to mental fatigue, frustration, and social withdrawal over time. People may begin to feel out of place or isolated in social situations, as they may miss jokes or struggle to keep up with the conversation. They might also find themselves concentrating more on reading lips or body language than they used to, as a compensatory strategy to understand what’s being said.

Moreover, if you or a loved one consistently has to move to a quieter location to have a conversation or prefer one-on-one conversations in quiet settings, this could be indicative of the beginnings of hearing loss.

Being aware of these subtleties is key to early detection of age-related hearing loss. By recognizing the signs early, you can take steps towards diagnosis and effective management, which can dramatically improve the quality of life for you or your loved one.

Frequently Asking Others to Repeat Themselves

Frequent requests for repetition, slower speech, or louder speaking from others can indicate an early stage of hearing loss. This symptom often frustrates everyone involved but understanding it as a potential hearing loss sign can lead to compassion and action. It’s essential to note that this difficulty in understanding speech is not due to lack of focus or attention, but rather a genuine struggle with auditory processing.

Moreover, individuals might find themselves leaning in or turning one ear towards the speaker, unconsciously trying to pick up more auditory cues. This change, combined with frequently misunderstanding what others are saying, or misunderstanding words for similar-sounding ones, might indicate that the clarity of hearing is declining.

As the symptom can gradually escalate, early identification is key to prevent further frustration and social withdrawal. Remember, acknowledgment is the first step towards seeking professional help and finding potential solutions.

Turning Up the Volume

A need for higher volume on devices such as the TV, radio, or even cellphones can hint at hearing difficulties. You might find yourself or a loved one consistently turning up the volume to levels others find too loud. This volume increment could be gradual and perhaps unnoticeable initially, but over time, it becomes a constant necessity to follow audio content.

Additionally, if you frequently struggle with understanding dialogue in films or TV shows without subtitles, it might suggest early hearing loss. Similarly, a loved one’s device volume seeming unusually high, or their habit of putting phone calls on speaker to hear better, can also be signs of a hearing issue.

By paying attention to these small alterations in daily behaviors, we can identify potential warning signs and seek appropriate help promptly.


Tinnitus, or persistent ringing, buzzing, hissing, or whistling in the ears, often co-occurs with hearing loss. Although not everyone with tinnitus has hearing loss, when it’s accompanied by other signs, it can be an early indicator.

Tinnitus is a condition that can occur intermittently or persistently, and while it’s typically a subjective experience, it can significantly affect an individual’s daily life. The sounds can vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal, and it may be present in one or both ears.

In many cases, people report that their tinnitus is more noticeable in quiet environments, such as when preparing to sleep at night. Tinnitus is often the first symptom to surface, making it a crucial point of recognition for possible presbycusis.

As bothersome as tinnitus can be, it’s important to remember that it is a symptom and not a disease itself. It’s often a sign that something is amiss with the auditory system, and therefore, should not be ignored.

Avoiding Social Situations

If you notice someone beginning to avoid social interactions they previously enjoyed due to difficulty hearing, it could signify a hearing issue. This avoidance can lead to feelings of isolation or depression. Therefore, it’s crucial to take these behavioral changes seriously.

Understanding these signs is just the first step. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, prompt action is necessary. The NIDCD recommends consulting a healthcare professional or an audiologist for a proper hearing test. Early detection is key in managing hearing loss and exploring potential treatment options effectively.

You may also wonder about the potential causes behind age-related hearing loss. These are often due to changes in the inner ear as we age. However, it can also result from changes in the middle ear, or changes along the nerve pathways leading to the brain. Prolonged exposure to loud noise, certain medications, and some health conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes can also contribute to hearing loss.

At Spokane Care To Stay Home, we understand the unique challenges posed by age-related hearing loss. Our caregivers are trained to communicate effectively with clients experiencing hearing loss. They provide assistance with daily tasks, offer companionship, and foster a supportive and understanding environment.

Remember, you’re not alone on this journey. The impact of hearing loss can be mitigated, and several strategies and technologies can help you or your loved one continue to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. We’re here to help if you have any concerns about age-related hearing loss or other aspects of senior health.