Contributed by Joy Victory, managing editor, Healthy Hearing
When and how often you should get your hearing checked depends on several factors. Do you suspect you have hearing loss? Or do you already have documented hearing loss?
Your age and job occupation are other big factors.
Testing vs. screening for hearing loss
Testing is conducted when you, a loved one, or your healthcare provider suspect you have hearing loss because you’re experiencing hearing loss symptoms. Testing involves sitting in a sound-treated booth and having your hearing levels measured, which are then plotted on an audiogram. This kind of test is often referred to by professionals as a “comprehensive hearing exam.”
Screening is usually done when you don’t have any obvious symptoms of hearing loss. Screening is usually faster and less complicated than testing, such as answering a questionnaire, like our online hearing test. If you are exposed to high noise levels on the job, you are often required to participate in a screening program to check your hearing ability.
If you have confirmed hearing loss
If you already know you have hearing loss—confirmed through past testing—you should be retested from time to time, as agreed upon between you and your hearing care provider. You should always pay closer attention your hearing if you know you have a loss, and get it checked right away if you notice a change.
Why? Hearing loss is dynamic, meaning it changes over time. However, sometimes the changes can be so subtle you may not notice. (Yet your loved ones probably do!)
Hearing aids need to be checked, too
If you wear hearing aids keep in mind that you’ll eventually need them adjusted. You may even need a new pair, particularly if your hearing loss has progressed from moderate to severe, or your hearing aids are outdated and not working well anymore. In general, the lifespan of a hearing aid is three to seven years.
If you have cochlear implants or a bone-anchored hearing system, this timeline may be different, and you’ll want to check with your hearing care provider to find out how often you should get your hearing tested.
Screening for other at-risk groups
Newborns, infants and school-age children are routinely screened for hearing loss. But what about adults?
Generally, young adults and middle-age adults who aren’t noticing any problems with their hearing do not need annual hearing screening.
But there are two groups of people who should get screened for hearing loss at least every few years:
- Older adults: Generally, people 60 and older should have a baseline hearing test, and get rechecked every few years. (We say “generally” because medical organizations disagree on exactly when an older adult with no symptoms should have their first hearing test, and how often they should get rechecked.) This is to rule out age-related hearing loss.
- Workers in noisy occupations: Even if you’re younger than 60, if you’re regularly exposed to sounds louder than about 85 decibels (see the chart on our noise-induced hearing loss page), it’s a good idea to get a hearing screening every few years.
If you suspect you have hearing loss
If you don’t follow into any of these groups, but feel like your hearing isn’t normal, always get it checked out. That’s because some medications and health conditions like otosclerosis can cause hearing loss in middle-aged and young adults.
Note that if you develop sudden hearing loss in one ear, it is a medical emergency. Seek help right away.
Hearing loss harms your quality of life — and your health
Why is it important to catch hearing loss early on? While society has a tendency to dismiss mild hearing loss as harmless, in reality hearing loss negatively impacts nearly every facet of your life, including your brain health. Even slight hearing loss is linked to cognitive decline.
Fortunately, hearing aids have health benefits that overcome many of these impacts.
Find a provider
Ready to get help? Talk to friends and family to get personal referrals to hearing care professionals, or read reviews in our directory for hearing care providers near you. Check with your insurance provider to see if you have coverage for hearing tests or hearing aids. You’ll also want to make sure your hearing care provider accepts your insurance (hearing care insurance is not widely available, unfortunately).