Many people have created a yearly routine of medical appointments to check up on their health. You may be accustomed to annual vision tests, bi-annual dental hygiene exams, and yearly physicals. Many people forget, however, an important feature of their health — their hearing test. Often people are just unaware of the importance of hearing on overall health and well-being and rarely do primary care physicians recommend routine hearing evaluations despite hearing’s link with cognitive functioning.
Of course, newborns receive frequent hearing evaluations that continue throughout adolescence. In adulthood, however, these check-ups rarely continue until there is a significant shift in hearing ability.
So how frequently should you get your hearing tested to ensure you are on top of your hearing health?
The recommended frequency of hearing tests varies depending on your age, your profession or proximity to risk, and your noticeable hearing health. It is recommended that adults below the age of 60, have their hearing tested every three to five years, according to industry guidelines.
If, however, you have risk factors you should make sure to schedule more regular examinations so that hearing loss is detected early. If you fit the characteristics of any of the following list, more frequent check-ups, starting annually, are recommended. You should consider annual a hearing evaluation:
- If you are over the age of 60: As we age, we continue to damage hair cells in our inner ears, affecting our ability to detect higher frequencies. Age-related hearing loss, officially referred to as Presbycusis, is very common. A third of all experience some degree of hearing loss by the age of 65. By the age of 75, at least one-half of all people have some hearing loss. Because of this prevalence, as one ages past 60, yearly hearing evaluations are recommended regardless of hearing ability. A baseline test and following annual tests allow you to monitor hearing levels and stay alert to changes.
- If you are commonly exposed to high volumes: While hearing loss related to age is very common, another frequent culprit of hearing loss is frequent exposure to loid noise. If you work in an environment where you frequently deal with high volumes (above 85 decibels), such as construction, the military, or restaurants, there is a risk of hearing loss due to noise exposure. You may also be at risk if you participate in loud activities, such as concert-going, target-shooting, or car-racing. If you are exposed to these risks, you should schedule an annual hearing evaluation to ensure you are able to detect any resulting hearing loss early.
- If you have ever experienced hearing loss: It may seem obvious, but frequent hearing evaluations are essential if you have any confirmed hearing loss or changes in your hearing. Regular testing is important if you have hearing loss, even if you have hearing aids, to ensure that they are tuned correctly and are adjusted as your hearing changes over time. These changes may be too subtle for you to notice, but those around you may be affected. Hearing aids may need to be adjusted or replaced, especially if you have had the hearing aid longer than three to seven years (depending on the type). You should schedule regular testing as soon as hearing loss is observed.
There are two different types of hearing evaluations. A general screening is done preemptively if there are no symptoms of hearing loss, often if one is exposed to loud noise at work, for example. Generally these evaluations are simpler than an evaluation for observed hearing loss, as they just involve a questionnaire. A hearing test, on the other hand, is given if hearing loss is observed by oneself, a loved one, or a doctor. These tests involve audiograms recorded during hearing level measurements in a sound-treated environment. If you have recorded hearing loss, you should take a hearing test semi-frequently. Discuss with your health-care provider to determine the appropriate time frame.
Difficulty hearing can create many challenges, from difficulty holding conversation with friends and family, to frustration with TV, radio, and music that used to be favorite pastimes. Hearing challenges can cause disruptions in every aspect of your life and relationships. And yet it does not have to! If you fit any of the risk factors above, an appointment with an audiologist or Ear, Nose, Throat doctor will set you on the right path of monitoring and potentially hearing aids, which can counteract the negative impacts of hearing challenges. Hearing evaluations are not something to postpone- it is critically important to stay on top of your aural health as hearing is critical to brain functioning and to overall well-being.