Your ears buzz or ring
Ringing or buzzing in the ears that comes and goes is one of the earliest signs of hearing loss. “When it’s quiet, you may start to hear a low level buzzing or ringing sound in the background. When it becomes more noticeable and is more frequent or constantly there, that means you’ve damaged the nerves in your ear,” says Robert L. Pincus, MD, associate professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at New York Medical College, and a physician in private practice in the New York Otolaryngology Group.
Headphone use is a big contributor to hearing damage, so younger generations should start paying attention to signs of hearing loss now, says Sreekant Cherukuri, MD, an otolaryngologist in Chicago who founded mdhearingaid.com, an affordable hearing aid company. “Permanent hearing loss can occur in eight to 15 minutes of listening to music on the maximum volume level,” he says. “If you have temporary ringing or buzzing when you stop your music, that should be your earliest clue that it’s too loud.” Cherukuri suggests investing in over-the-ear noise canceling headphones because they reduce environmental noise, like traffic, which means you don’t have to turn up the volume to hear. Ear bud headphones are popular but dangerous because they sit close to the eardrum, he says. (Here are some other surprising reasons your ears might be ringing.)
Your balance is off
If you notice yourself stumbling more often, clumsiness might not be to blame–this could be one of signs of hearing loss. “When people have trouble hearing, they spend so much effort trying to hear that simple things like balance get less of the brain’s attention,” says Dr. Cherukuri. Your inner ear canals send signals to your brain to help you balance, so damage to them may make you a bit off kilter.