Most of us are used to seeing our general practitioner on a regular basis, whether we are ill or not. General checkups are understood to be an important part of maintaining our best health and well-being. We dutifully visit the dentist once a year, and get a regular vision test. However, hearing tests are not as routine a part of our normal health maintenance routines.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) Is On the Rise
This is unfortunate, because the world is noisy, and our hearing is often at more risk than we realize. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), after showing some signs of decline around the beginning of the 21st century, is on the rise again. While about 10% of millennials have hearing loss, about 17% of Gen-Z has it. This is especially concerning, considering that Gen-Z is the younger of the two generations!
Hearing Tests Help Prevent Hearing Loss
Hearing tests are not just for those who need hearing aids. Hearing tests keep us informed about the state of our hearing health over time. We can find out if noise might be whittling away at our hearing ability, and make changes in our lifestyle or hearing protection measures in order to prevent more NIHL going forward. While NIHL is unfortunately permanent, it is also completely preventable.
How Often to Schedule a Hearing Test
So, exactly how often should you get a hearing test? The Better Hearing Institute, a non-profit organization, has recommended getting a hearing test once every decade until age 50, and once every three years after that. Those in higher-risk professions or with a medical history indicating an elevated risk for hearing loss should be tested once a year.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), however, suggests that healthy people aged 18–40, who do not have any noticeable hearing loss, should be tested every three to five years. This is probably a safer bet, since the rate of hearing loss in the population appears to be increasing for reasons we do not fully understand.
Some people should be tested more frequently. Consider being tested once per year if you are:
- Over Age 60: Hearing loss is very common in people over age 60. About one-third of those aged 60–74 have hearing loss, and about half of those 75 and up have it. It’s important to have your hearing tested whether or not you think you have hearing loss. Perhaps the only thing more common than having hearing loss is not realizing that you have it! Hearing tests give you an objective measure of the state of your hearing ability, and an early start to treatment helps prevent complications from untreated hearing loss.
- Regularly Exposed to Loud Noise: Whether your profession requires you to spend time around loud noises, or you engage in recreational activities that involve loud noise, if you are exposed on a regular basis, you should be tested once a year. Construction workers, factory workers, hunters, motorcyclists, musicians, concertgoers, and other people who are regularly exposed to sound levels above 85 dBA (about the volume level of a gas-powered lawn mower) should a) protect their hearing whenever they are engaged in loud activities and b) get their hearing checked once a year to make sure their protection measures are adequate.
- Already a Hearing Aid Wearer: It may not seem necessary to get your hearing checked once you are wearing hearing aids, but it can make all the difference. Hearing loss tends to progress for some amount of time, and then plateau. The trajectory is different for everyone, but it’s important to have regular hearing tests to ensure that your hearing aid programming is appropriate for the hearing loss you have now, not when you got your hearing aids two years ago or more. We want to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your hearing aids, and regular testing helps make that possible.
Hearing tests are fast, painless and non-invasive. Depending on how often your lifestyle and medical history indicates you should be tested, set aside a morning or afternoon on the appropriate timeline and get your hearing tested! It can save you a lot of strife down the road. If and when the time comes for you to start wearing hearing aids, you’ll know you have done what you can to minimize your risk of more severe hearing loss over the years.
If you’re due for a hearing test, make an appointment today and take charge of your hearing health!