When you go to a doctor for a checkup, they usually don’t give you a hearing screening. We make regular visits to the medical doctor, the eye doctor, and the dentist—but not to the audiologist. Yet, in a recent AARP poll, 75% of respondents said their hearing health was extremely important or very important to them. Clearly, there is a mismatch between the importance that Americans place on their hearing and the amount of attention we give to it.
Regular Hearing Tests
The Better Hearing Institute and ASHA (The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association), both non-profits, suggest that a person should receive a hearing test once every decade until age 50, and once every three years after that. Those in higher-risk professions, or who are at a higher risk for hearing loss due to medical or family histories, should be tested even more frequently. Likewise, if you are an avid gun enthusiast, woodworker, musician, or otherwise spend a lot of time in high-noise environments, hearing testing should be a regular priority.
How Hearing Tests Help You Stay Healthier
Hearing screenings (quick checkups to make sure you do not have hearing loss) and hearing tests allow you to keep better track of your hearing health over time. You can identify that you are starting to show early signs of hearing loss while you are still well within the range of normal hearing. If these signs appear, it’s an indication that you need to do a better job of protecting your ears in high-decibel-level situations, and perhaps take additional steps to reduce your modifiable risk factors for hearing loss. Some steps you can take that have been shown to reduce the risk of hearing loss include:
Protect Your Ears – Any time the ambient sound is at or above 85 dBA (decibels A-weighted), protect your ears or move to a safe distance.
Turn Down the Earbuds – It can be hard to tell just how loud our headphones or earbuds are effectively presenting sound to our ears. As a rule of thumb, set the volume just loud enough to be able to listen comfortably. The maximum volume on most any personal listening device will cause permanent hearing loss in a relatively short amount of listening time!
Quit Smoking – Your risk of hearing loss goes up significantly in proportion to how many cigarettes you smoke per day. Of course, quitting smoking has numerous health benefits, but it should also be noted that smoking greatly increases your risk of hearing loss.
Eat Healthily – A study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that those who closely followed an anti-inflammatory diet—high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and olive oil; and low in red and processed meats—were dramatically less likely to experience hearing loss over a four-year period around age 60.
Exercise – Get that blood flowing! Aerobic exercise, even just walking regularly, has been shown to increase blood flow and help provide necessary oxygen and nutrients to the tiny cells responsible for your hearing ability.
Some Hearing Loss May Be Unavoidable
While these are important things to do to minimize your risk for hearing loss, it may still be the case that you experience hearing loss in the course of your life. Researchers at the Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss have found that there is a genetic component to every kind of hearing loss, but genes are not the whole story. It’s better to have moderate hearing loss than profound hearing loss, and your lifestyle and use of hearing protection can make all the difference.
If you do have hearing loss, it’s best to start wearing hearing aids sooner than later. Even with mild hearing loss, people report memory issues, “tuning out,” and struggle with early fatigue in social situations. As hearing loss progresses, deeper issues such as brain atrophy will commonly develop. It’s really true that you need to “use it or lose it” when it comes to your brain’s ability to hear. A good set of hearing aids can make up the difference and prevent hearing loss from taking over your life.
If you or a loved one is having issues with hearing loss, or if you’re due for a hearing test, make an appointment today. Start keeping track of your hearing health and make sure you’ve got the tools necessary to promote your best health and well-being!