Most people are accustomed to making regular checkups a routine part of their medical care how ever few ever take their hearing health as serious as they should. While annual physicals, dental exams and vision tests are all commonplace few take hearing loss seriously enough! Hearing loss is classically underestimated and undertreated, particularly by insurance companies which rarely cover a hearing exam let alone hearing aids and cochlear implants. Today more and more research shows the importance of treating hearing loss including: improved relationships, improved conversation, less chance of depression, more social connection, improved cognitive health and a reduced risk of falls and accidents.
Expectations around the Frequency of Heairng Exams
Newborn hearing screenings are essential, and regular checkups throughout childhood are commonplace. However, once people graduate to adulthood, few maintian hearing checkups. “Few adults give their hearing much thought unless they are experiencing a noticeable loss or a sudden change in their hearing ability,” explains Paul Pietrzyk, Au.D., CCC-A, an audiologist working with TriHealth. “By then, their options for treatment may be more limited, so it’s important to follow the guidelines to detect hearing loss early.”
In part this may be due to hearing losses often subtle nature. At first, it’s barely noticeable, only affecting certain tones. You may notice people referring to the sound of birds in the trees and while you hear nothing. Over time it becomes more difficult to ignore, but even then, it takes people 7 to 10 years on average for someone to take action around a hearing loss. By this point many of the negative side effects of hearing loss may have taken hold such as strains on relationships, depression, anxiety, cognitive decline leading closer to dementia. Clearly many of these side effects have lasting and irreversible effects.
So Often is Regular Enough?
To stay on top of hearing health, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) guidelines state that healthy adults ages 18-40 years old, who are not experiencing any noticeable hearing loss, should have their hearing tested every three to five years. However, certain people may pose a higher risk. For instance, Dr. Pietrzyk recommends more frequent hearing for any of the following groups:
- People over the age of 60: Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, is the most common cause of hearing loss affecting one in three people over 65 and half of all of those 75 and older. As we age damage to the hair-like cells of the inner ear become more common. They are incredibly fragile and the sole transport of sound from the ears to the brain. Once you reach 60 years of age annual hearing exam s are recommended, whether you are aware of symptoms or not.
- People who are exposed to loud noises: Those who work in noisy environments such as musicians or construction workers, law enforcement, military, night clubs, sound design and entertainment venues are at a high risk for noise-induced hearing loss. Affecting people of all ages, noise induced hearing loss occurs when sound passes a safe listening threshold. This can cause vibrations loud enough to damage the cells of the inner ear leading to permanent hearing loss. If you work in a noisy environment, make sure you schedule an annual hearing exam and wear hearing protection as religiously as possible in the meantime.
- People with hearing loss: This may seem redundant, but hearing loss is a progressive disorder, which means it’s likely it can get worse over time. “Because your hearing may continue to change over time, it’s important that your hearing aids are properly programmed to ensure you are receiving the maximum benefit,” says Dr. Pietrzyk. “These patients should have their hearing tested at least once a year. “
Take Control of your Hearing Health Now
It’s all too common for people to put off addressing a hearing loss for far too many years. However, understanding the importance of hearing health is the first step in accessing the best in what quality of life has to offer. If you have noticed a change in hearing or you simply find you are asking people to repeat themselves all too often then it’s time to schedule a hearing exam today.