Your hearing is precious, easy to damage and difficult to fix. However, many people never schedule hearing tests to ensure that their ears are working as well as they can. Doctors recommend annual check-ups and dentists suggest an exam and cleaning twice a year. However, most people don’t bother seeing a doctor about their hearing until there is a problem and they need to frantically Google “hearing tests near me.”
It probably comes as no surprise that it is better to maintain your hearing than to ignore it until there is a problem. However, you may be wondering how often should you have your hearing tested? Also, when should your child first get a hearing test?
Screening Vs. Hearing Test
It is important to understand the difference between a screening and a hearing test. The former is a type of the latter. Screenings are used regularly as a way to evaluate hearing and detecting problems early.
During a screening, the patient will hear several different tones meant to simulate real-world hearing situations. Typically, they are structured as a pass/fail type of test. Passing the test means that the patient has no hearing loss. Failing the test may require some additional testing to determine the level of hearing loss and the conditions.
Typically, when speaking about hearing tests generally, especially as regular occurrences, people are referring to screenings. However, there are many other types of tests that can help with assessing a patient’s hearing.
Frequency of Screenings
For adults between ages 18 and 50, get a hearing screening every three to five years. This can be done as part of your annual check-up. Most doctor’s offices can perform a hearing screening and your primary care physician may refer you to a specialist if necessary.
Hearing loss often happens slowly and over time. Often, hearing loss is not easily noticeable under normal circumstances. Therefore, you may miss hearing degeneration if you wait until the symptoms are noticeable.
Simply talk to your primary care physician about screenings. He or she will likely be happy to order them for you. This simple practice is the best way to stay on top of your hearing health.
Hearing Screenings for Children
Hearing screenings are especially important for children. Some hearing conditions can be present at birth. Others may develop later in childhood. Screenings can help to catch these early and guide appropriate treatment.
In the United States, the first screening is performed shortly after birth and is mandatory before the child is discharged from the hospital. Toddlers should have a screening before age three.
Children with delayed speech may have more regular screenings. This can help determine if hearing difficulty is playing a role in the delay. Most children also receive an additional hearing screening before reaching school age regardless of speech progress.
During the elementary level of school, children receive hearing tests every year in the United States. These are often provided at school. If not, your child’s primary care physician can provide them upon request.
Like adults, children who have hearing issues detected by the screening will be referred to an audiologist for further testing. The screening alone is not typically sufficient to diagnose a hearing problem.
When To Get Other Hearing Tests
While you typically cannot just request other hearing tests, you can mention a problem to your primary care physician who may refer you to an audiologist. If you experience any signs of hearing loss, don’t wait until your next appointment or screening to talk to your doctor. Hearing issues are best treated as promptly as possible.
Different hearing problems have unique symptoms. However, there are a few common signs that you should be mindful of:
- You have difficulty following conversations, especially in noisy environments.
- You frequently need to ask people to repeat themselves.
- Your family complains that you are listening to the television or other media too at a high volume.
- You have a hard time hearing consonants.
- Noises seem muffled or dull.
- You hear a persistent ringing in your ears even in a quiet environment.
If you notice any of these symptoms, speak to your doctor promptly. There is no need to search for “hearing tests near me.” He or she will be able to refer you to an audiologist.
Ways To Avoid Hearing Loss
Some hearing loss is caused by disease or age and is out of your control. However, you can help protect your ears by practicing a few key habits:
- Wearing earplugs in loud environments such as concerts.
- Dry your ears thoroughly after they get wet.
- Avoid using Q-tips or other pointed items in your ears.
- Keep the volume on your media low, especially when using headphones.
- If you are exposed to loud noises, give your ears time to recover.
These basic practices will help you to avoid unnecessary hearing loss. In particular, using earplugs is important. It may not seem cool at a concert but is very worthwhile. It can help ensure all your hearing screenings come back as passes.