Forty-eight million Americans have hearing loss, but despite its prevalence, there is still a lot of stigma around the condition that prevents people from seeking help. In fact, the average person waits seven years to seek help for their hearing loss. There’s no straight-forward answer for when you should have your hearing tested, but we’ve compiled some information to help you determine when the right time is for you.
Screening Vs. Testing
It’s important to first distinguish between a hearing screening and a hearing test. Hearing screenings are performed when you’re not necessarily experiencing symptoms of hearing loss. They are faster and less involved than testing, and usually involve filling out a questionnaire.
Testing is performed when you, a doctor or a loved one suspects symptoms of hearing loss. Hearing tests are conducted in soundproof booths. Sounds at various pitches and volumes are played in the booth or into headphones, and you indicate when you can hear a sound. The results are then plotted on an audiogram.
Who Should Get Screened
Newborns are screened within one month of birth because untreated hearing loss in infants can lead to devastating speech-language delays. This allows infants with hearing loss to be diagnosed by three months and in treatment by six months.
Workers in noisy professions should be screened regularly, no matter their age. People who are regularly exposed to sounds exceeding 85 dB – about the volume of passing highway traffic – are at risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss. Even if no hearing loss is present, it is important to establish a baseline for your hearing in order to detect changes over time.
People over the age of 60 should also be screened, as aging is the number one cause of hearing loss. In fact, one in three individuals over age 65 has hearing loss; for those over 75 the number jumps to one in two. We recommend annual hearing tests for everyone over age 60, whether you show symptoms or not.
Even if you have hearing loss, you should get tested regularly. Your hearing loss changes over time, and your hearing aids need to be programmed accordingly. Without a hearing test, your audiologist won’t know what programming your hearing aids need to provide the most benefit.
For more information about hearing tests or to schedule an appointment, call Mt. Hood ENT today.