It can sometimes be difficult to tell if your hearing has changed, and in some cases, people around you might notice before you do. It can be especially tricky to recognise hearing loss symptoms if you have hearing loss in one ear but can still hear perfectly with the other. 
Here, you’ll find the common signs and symptoms of different hearing loss types that you can look out for – either for yourself or a loved one.

Signs of hearing loss

Different types of hearing loss can have different symptoms but, in general, if any of these  situations sound familiar, it can be a sign that your hearing has changed:

  • You have the TV or radio volume uncomfortably loud for other people
  • You find it difficult to hear dialogue at the cinema or theatre
  • Phone conversations are hard work
  • You ask people to repeat things or misunderstand what they say
  • You find having conversations quite tiring 
  • You have difficulty following conversations in groups
  • You feel isolated because you cannot hear properly
  • You avoid situations that you used to enjoy because of the way you hear
  • Someone suggests you might not be hearing as well as you used to

If you recognise any of these situations in yourself, or someone you know, it might be a good idea to come and see us for a hearing test and some expert advice.

At Specsavers, hearing tests are completely free with no-obligation to purchase a hearing aid.

Symptoms of conductive hearing loss

You might have conductive hearing loss if it’s caused by a blockage in your ear canal. This is usually temporary and has the typical signs of hearing loss, along with a few additional clues, such as: 

  • The loudness of the sound diminishes but not the clarity
  • You can hear better in one ear than the other
  • You have an earache in one or both ears
  • You feel an increased sense of pressure in one or both ears
  • You feel that your own voice sounds different

Flat hearing loss

Flat hearing loss is one type of conductive hearing loss where your test results will show a ‘flat loss’, which means that your hearing is affected at all frequencies.

The symptoms of flat hearing loss include:   

  • Not being able to hear low tones, often associated with tinnitus
  • Your own voice sounding very loud

Causes of conductive hearing loss

Symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss

Because this type of hearing loss stems from damage to the hair cells in your ear, its symptoms are a bit different. It might be that you or your loved one only finds certain types of sounds more difficult to hear. 

But you might experience some of the following symptoms: 

  • Feeling like speech sounds slurred
  • Following a conversation in noisy places is difficult 
  • Hearing someone speaking in busy places (like train stations, construction sites, school grounds) is challenging 
  • Hearing high pitched sounds is difficult (like children speaking or some female voices) 
  • You can’t differentiate between certain sounds (like ‘s’ or ‘th’ sounds)

Different noises vibrate at different frequencies, and these are what our ears pick up for our brain to process as sound. This means that if your ears aren’t picking up certain vibrations because of hearing loss, there may be certain types of sound you might not be able to hear as well as others. 

Symptoms of high-frequency hearing loss

The symptoms of this can include not being able to hear:   

  • High pitched voices of children, women, and birdsong
  • Sounds like ‘s’, ‘sh’, ‘f’, ‘v’, ‘th’, p
  • Certain subtle sounds of timers, clocks, car signal and ovens

Symptoms of low-frequency hearing loss 

This is a less common form of hearing loss and the symptoms are opposite to high-frequency loss. 

These can include not being able to hear:   

  • Deep voices, such as men’s voices
  • Low pitched music or natural sounds, like the wind
  • Phone conversations (but a face-to-face one is easier)

Causes of sensorineural hearing loss

Symptoms of mixed hearing loss

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.  

For example, someone with conductive hearing loss may experience further hearing loss as they age, or an older person with presbycusis (age-related hearing loss) whose ear canal is blocked by excess earwax might have extra hearing loss until the wax is cleared. 

The symptoms of mixed hearing loss are the same as general hearing loss, like increasing the volume of the TV or struggling with phone conversations.

How to find out if you have hearing loss

All types of hearing loss tend to have a lot of overlapping symptoms, so it’s best to have a full hearing test to determine the type of hearing loss you might have and decide the right kind of treatment for you. 

To start with, you could use our free online tool to get a quick idea of your hearing, or you can book a free hearing test with one of our experts in store.

Understanding hearing loss
Treatment of hearing loss
Causes of hearing loss