More often than not, people are unaware that they have hearing loss. It occurs so slowly that it’s usually undetectable, and moreover, the majority of family physicians do not consistently screen for hearing loss at the yearly physical exam.
Taking into account these two facts, it’s no wonder that most people first realize they have hearing loss by being informed about it from close friends or family members. But once people confront you about your hearing loss, it’s very likely already relatively advanced. Seeing as hearing loss gets worse over time—and cannot be fully recovered once lost—it’s crucial to treat hearing loss in a timely manner rather of waiting for it to get bad enough for people to notice.
So when and how often should you get your hearing tested? Here are our suggestions:
Establish a Baseline Early
It’s never too soon to consider your first hearing test. The sooner you test your hearing, the earlier you can create a baseline to compare later tests. The only way to determine if your hearing is worsening is by comparing the results with past assessments.
Although it’s true that as you become older you’re more likely to have hearing loss, keep in mind that 26 million people between the age of 20 and 69 have hearing loss. Hearing loss is widespread among all age groups, and being exposed to loud noise places everyone at risk irrespective of age.
Yearly Tests After Age 55
At the age of 65, one out of every three people will have some degree of hearing loss. Considering hearing loss is so typical around this age, we advise yearly hearing tests to assure that your hearing is not deteriorating. Remember, hearing loss is permanent, cumulative, and practically undetectable. However, with yearly hearing exams, hearing loss can be diagnosed early, and treatment is always more effective when implemented earlier.
Assess Personal Risk Factors
As stated by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, “approximately 15 percent of Americans (26 million people) between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to noise at work or during leisure activities.”
If you have been exposed to loud work environments or activities such as music concerts or sporting events, it’s a good idea to have your hearing tested. It’s also a good idea to get a yearly hearing test if you continue to expose your hearing to these conditions.
Watch for Signs of Hearing Loss
As we noted before, the signs and symptoms of hearing loss are often first recognized by others. You should schedule a hearing test if someone has recommended it to you or if you encounter any of these signs or symptoms:
- Muffled hearing
- Trouble understanding what people are saying, especially in loud settings or in groups
- People commenting on how loud you have the TV or radio
- Avoiding social situations and conversations
- Ringing, roaring, hissing, or buzzing in the ear (tinnitus)
- Ear pain, irritation, or discharge
- Vertigo, dizziness, or balance problems
Don’t Wait Until the Harm is Done
The bottom line is that hearing loss is common among all age groups and that we all live in the presence of several occupational and everyday risk factors. Seeing that hearing loss is hard to detect, worsens over time, and is best treated early, we highly recommend that you get your hearing tested regularly. You might end up saving your hearing with early intervention, and the worst that can happen is that you find out you have normal hearing.