Hearing loss affects about one-third of people aged 60–69, and two-thirds of those aged 70 and up. Nearly 100% of centenarians have hearing loss, suggesting we’ll all experience it if we live long enough. The World Health Organization and others have stressed the importance of treating hearing loss as we age in order to avoid complications that can lead to multiple negative outcomes for health and well-being. But how do we know when it’s time to start treating hearing loss in order to continue to live a healthy, happy life?
Hearing loss happens so gradually that we usually don’t notice it until it has progressed to a significant degree—long after it causes complications in our lives and changes in our brain. Chances are, someone will tell us that we likely have hearing loss before we ever suspect it, ourselves. This is because it’s so difficult to perceive that we can’t hear something. We simply don’t hear it!
The best way to ensure that we receive the care we need in a timely fashion is to have an annual hearing test after we reach age 50. Those in professions with a high risk for hearing loss, or with a higher risk due to their medical history, should be tested regularly at a younger age, and perhaps more often. A regular hearing test can not only indicate that it is time to wear hearing aids in order to avoid a gap in your listening abilities but can catch hearing loss early enough that you may be able to better protect your hearing to avoid problematic hearing loss due to noise exposure.
Many people wish to “wait until it gets worse” to treat their hearing loss. We understand this, considering that hearing aids are a considerable financial investment and do come with an adjustment period. However, waiting to treat hearing loss makes it more difficult to address the problem when you do start to wear hearing aids. Changes start to happen in the brain that affects our listening abilities and communication style that can take great effort to reverse once you start wearing hearing aids. This happens even with mild hearing loss.
What’s more, mild hearing loss drastically increases social fatigue, while making socializing more difficult and less pleasant. Those with untreated mild hearing loss also report having more memory issues than those with normal hearing or who wear hearing aids. Choosing to live with hearing loss “until it gets worse,” unfortunately, only ensures that things will get worse.
Hearing Screening vs Comprehensive Hearing Test
What’s the difference between a hearing screening and a comprehensive hearing test? Well, a hearing screening is not meant to give a perfectly accurate picture of your hearing ability. If you take our online hearing screening, for example, the results can be skewed by external noise sources, the acoustic properties of the room you’re in, internet connection issues, the quality of your listening device, etc.
A hearing screening, such as our online hearing screening, is valuable in that it can provide a rough estimate of your hearing ability. If it is possible that you have any hearing issues, the screening will let you know. This does not mean that you definitely need hearing aids. It just means that the results of the test indicate that a more accurate test could reveal an issue that should be addressed.
A comprehensive hearing test, on the other hand, is conducted by a hearing care specialist or audiologist. You’ll sit in a sound-proof booth and use a set of calibrated headphones that ensure the test is administered properly. Measures are even built into the test to help adjust for false positives and negatives. Rather than one type of audiometry, several different tests may be employed, including:
- Pure-Tone Audiometry
- Speech Audiometry
- Speech-in-Noise Testing
- Otoacoustic Emissions
- Acoustic Reflex Testing
At the end of your comprehensive hearing test (about a 30-minute process) you’ll have a very accurate picture of your hearing ability that you can rely on, and your hearing care specialist will recommend which treatments, if any, will be beneficial to you.
Take charge of your hearing health and schedule a comprehensive hearing test today! The more you know about what’s going on with your hearing, the more informed decisions you can make, and the better able you’ll be to maintain your best health and well-being!