Signs of hearing loss 

Hearing loss is sometimes sudden, but often it's gradual and you may not notice it at first. Being aware of the early signs can help you identify the problem quickly.

It's important to spot hearing loss as soon as possible, because treatment is often more beneficial if started early.

General signs of hearing loss

Early signs of hearing loss can include:

  • difficulty hearing other people clearly and misunderstanding what they say, especially in group situations
  • asking people to repeat themselves
  • listening to music or watching television with the volume higher than other people need
  • difficulty hearing the telephone or doorbell
  • finding it difficult to tell which direction noise is coming from
  • regularly feeling tired or stressed, from having to concentrate while listening

In some cases, you may recognise signs of hearing loss in someone else before they notice it themselves. Research suggests it takes 10 years from the time someone notices they have hearing loss, before they do anything about it.

If you also hear a ringing, buzzing or whistling sound in your ears, this could be a sign of tinnitus, which is often associated with hearing loss.

Read more about losing your hearing.

Signs of hearing loss in children

Babies are routinely screened within the first few weeks of their birth as part of the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme (NHSP). However, there are signs you can look out for which may suggest you should see your GP to arrange another hearing test.

Signs in babies

You should consider seeing your GP if you notice that your baby or toddler:

  • isn't startled by loud noises
  • doesn't turn towards the source of a sound while under four months old
  • doesn't say single words by the time they're one year old
  • notices you when they see you, but not when you call their name
  • hears some sounds but not others

Signs in children

You should consider seeing your GP if you notice that your child:

  • is slow to learn to talk, or they're not clear when they speak 
  • often asks you to repeat yourself or responds inappropriately to a question
  • doesn't reply when you call them
  • often talks very loudly
  • often turns up the volume of the TV so it's very loud
  • watches other people to copy instructions, because they haven't heard

Read more about your child's development from birth to five years old.

Seeking medical help

Make an appointment to see your GP if you're having problems with your hearing, or your child is showing signs of hearing difficulties.

If you wake up with a sudden loss of hearing in one ear or lose the hearing in one ear within a couple of days, you should see your GP as soon as possible.

Read more about diagnosing hearing loss.

Page last reviewed: 22/04/2015

Next review due: 22/04/2017