There are two main reasons to visit a primary care physician: for specific care related to a medical need, or for your annual checkup. There are two main reasons to visit a dentist: for specific care related to a dental issue, or for your recommended semi-annual cleaning. Likewise, there are two main reasons you should visit a hearing healthcare professional: for specific care related to a possible or previously-diagnosed hearing loss, or for your annual hearing test.
But unlike physicals and dental cleanings, many people don’t make annual hearing tests a priority. So why is an annual hearing test as important as a primary care physician’s checkup?
Reason #1: Hearing Loss is Often Gradual
Why do you get a physical? The answer: to keep track of your health. You want to make sure you don’t have any health problems that escaped your notice and be proactive about any problems that may arise.
The same justification applies to getting annual hearing tests. You need to monitor your hearing health and be alerted to any changes that might occur. By the time most people notice their hearing loss on their own, the extent of that loss is already quite advanced. Even if you haven’t noticed any signs of hearing loss thus far, it’s still important to get your hearing tested by a hearing healthcare professional once a year. That way, if you start to lose some of your hearing ability, you’ll be ready to address it so that it can’t negatively affect your life.
It’s worth noting that your hearing healthcare professional isn’t the only one who can monitor your hearing ability. You should also be on the lookout for any signs of hearing loss that may occur in your daily life. Many situations can serve as indications that you might have hearing loss or another hearing condition. They include:
- You sometimes have trouble hearing while on the phone.
- You sometimes experience difficulty hearing conversations in noisy environments.
- You often need to ask people to repeat themselves.
- You feel you have to strain or use a lot of effort to hear everything in a meeting or conversation.
- You sometimes have difficulty pinpointing the direction from which a sound is coming.
- You sometimes think sounds or voices seem muffled.
- You sometimes have trouble understanding young children or people with higher-pitched voices.
- You sometimes have trouble understanding speech when the speaker is not facing you.
- You sometimes need to turn the volume on the TV up in order to hear comfortably, even though others say it's too loud.
- You sometimes withdraw from social settings to avoid conversational embarrassment.
- You’ve had someone close to you mention that you may have an issue with your hearing.
- You spend a lot of time in very loud environments.
- You experience a ringing, buzzing or whooshing sensation in your ears.
If you can identify with one or more of the situations above, it's definitely in your best interest to get your hearing tested right away.
Reason #2: Untreated Hearing Loss Affects Your Health and Happiness
Although many people don’t want to believe it, chances are good that there will be some sort of change in your hearing health over time. People of any age can experience hearing loss, whether that be from excessive noise levels at concerts, sporting events, or work environments, or simply as a result of getting older. Consider these statistics:
- 12.5% of American children between the ages of 6 and 19 have had their hearing permanently damaged from overexposure to loud noise
- 14% of American adults between the ages of 45 and 64 have some type of hearing loss
- 30-40% American adults over the age of 65 have some type of hearing loss
- 50% of American adults over the age of 75 have some type of hearing loss
Untreated hearing loss should not be taken lightly. In most situations, the longer you wait to see a professional, the worse your hearing will get. It’s also been linked to many different health concerns (heart disease, dementia, depression, sleep apnea, and brain shrinkage, to name a few).
Untreated hearing loss can also cause a dip in earning power and create a tension in workplace relationships. Your personal relationships may also suffer if hearing loss goes untreated, as communication with your loved ones will likely be strained and this can lead to frustration. However, taking early action to address your hearing loss can make all the difference. The use of hearing aids has been shown to improve brain function, combat those professional and personal setbacks, and improve your overall quality of life.
The sooner you know you have hearing difficulties, the sooner you can take action and find the right solution for you. The sooner you find that solution, the less time you’ll spend isolated, disconnected, and at risk for other health concerns. Annual hearing exams can give you peace of mind that you’re doing everything you possibly can to take care of your hearing health and maintain your quality of life.