A little hearing loss is one of those things we’ve all come to accept as part of getting old, but when does missing the odd word become a bigger issue you need to get looked at? Knowing when to get tested for hearing loss can be tough, especially for younger adults who might not anticipate running into any audible trouble any time soon, but addressing the problem at the right time could make all the difference.
These days, you can get online hearing tests that will literally take you a few minutes to complete, so really, it boils down to understanding your risk factors and personal circumstances to figure out when it’s the right time to put your ears through their paces.
Risk factors for hearing loss
There are certain established risk factors for hearing loss that can help guide you in understanding where you might be more at risk than another person. The NIDCD reports that men are twice as likely as women to suffer hearing loss between the age of 20-69, for example, but this may be down to the environments both sexes typically find themselves in.
As a general rule, here are the key things you need to be looking out for when thinking about your hearing:
- Your age: age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss, with adults aged 60-69 unsurprisingly suffering the greatest amount of hearing loss in the 20-69 age bracket.
- Loud recreational and occupational noise: if you’re exposed to loud noises on a regular basis, for example in a working environment, damage is more likely to occur due to long term exposure.
- Some medications: some drugs, including chemotherapy drugs, Viagra and the antibiotic gentamicin can damage the inner ear. High does of aspirin and other pain relievers can also cause ringing in the ear (tinnitus) or hearing loss.
- Some illnesses and diseases: illnesses that result in high fever, like meningitis, can cause damage to the cochlea.
Testing vs screening
When considering testing, it’s also important to understand the difference between testing and screening, as that will guide your selection process when seeking professional help.
Testing is a much more thorough process carried out when you or a loved one have shown signs of hearing loss. This will often involve sitting in a sound treated booth and having your hearing levels measured – often known as a “comprehensive hearing exam.”
Screening, on the other hand, is a precautionary process carried out patients with no signs or symptoms of hearing loss. This is a less in-depth, preventive test often available to those who work in jobs with high levels of occupational noise, who are often required to participate as part of their employer’s health safety efforts.
Something like the online hearing test mentioned at the beginning of this article is considered part of screening rather than testing, thus is a great step if you simply want to check up on yourself in quick and simple manner.
So when should you go?
Getting a hearing test isn’t like heading to the dentist or attending your yearly medical check-up, and really there’s no recommended regularity for the average Joe to book a screening. Instead, knowing when to book a hearing test often boils down to common sense – for example, if you have symptoms of hearing loss or have been constantly exposed to a number of risk factors.
With tests so easy to do these days, it might be diligent to set yourself a screening date every now and again based on your circumstances. Hopefully, that screening will come to nothing, but if it does pick something up, you’re certainly better finding out about it now rather than later.