Most people don’t hesitate to see a doctor for their annual check-up. Ditto for a visit to the dentist’s office for a biannual cleaning or a nagging toothache. Same goes for the eye doctor when watching television or reading a magazine become a little too blurry to bear.
But what about their hearing? Do people schedule annual appointments to have their hearing tested by a certified audiologist? Not likely.
It might have something to do with the societal taboo of hearing aids. Perhaps nothing represents the stigma of old age more than those two dreaded words — hearing aid. Seeing eyeglasses on people of all ages, including toddlers, is an accepted part of society. But hearing aids (rightly or wrongly) have traditionally been associated with Grandpa Wally sitting in the living room fiddling with his bulky, buzzing, hearing apparatus.
Many individuals, aware that the quality of their hearing has eroded in some way, do not seek help out of fear, denial, or embarrassment. Not wanting to be perceived as ‘weak’ or ‘old,’ they try and dodge the problem altogether and procrastinate persistently. Many people believe they can get on just fine without using hearing aids, and put off seeking treatment for years.
The FDA confirms that the majority of people wearing hearing aids have lived with hearing loss for at least ten years, and didn’t consult a hearing professional until their hearing deteriorated to a more severe level. Also, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) confirms that only one in five people who would benefit from wearing a hearing aid actually do.
How Often Should I Get My Hearing Tested?
Hearing professionals recommend that adults over 18 years old should have their hearing checked at least once, and depending on the results, should have hearing exams every one to three years after that. By the time they turn 55 years old, adults should receive a hearing test every year. Baseline hearing tests are also recommended for all ages during annual physical exams at the doctor’s office.
An annual hearing test will allow an audiologist to better gauge how a patient’s hearing has changed and offer important clues as to the best course of treatment.
For most people hearing loss is a gradual process, making it hard to track and observe changes in one’s hearing over time. Scheduling an annual hearing checkup can potentially save many patients from extensive hearing loss in the future.
Who Is Most at Risk for Hearing Loss?
A loss in hearing can happen at any point during one’s life. However, two factors have the most influence on how well one hears: aging and noise.
Hearing loss due to age is a common health challenge faced by older adults. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), almost 30 million people in the U.S. have suffered hearing loss in both ears, and 25% of adults aged 65 to 74, and 50% of those aged 75 years and older have experienced crippling hearing loss.
Moreover, some occupations come with an additional risk of hearing loss due to regular exposure to loud noises. Patients who work or have worked in louder environments may need more frequent checkups than those who don’t. An audiologist can recommend how often one should get tested to prevent occupational hearing loss.
Hearing loss is a gradual process — don’t wait until it gets out of hand. The sooner you can identify a loss of hearing, the faster it can be treated. Your health and your hearing are too important to leave to the whims of nature.
If you suspect you have signs of hearing loss, be proactive and ask your family doctor to give you a hearing test as part of your next physical, or schedule an appointment with one of our audiologists to undergo a comprehensive hearing test.