Hearing Tests

If you’ve already scheduled a hearing test, good for you!

Hearing tests are not only the first step to effectively treating hearing loss, but should be conducted periodically in order to assess your hearing ability throughout your life. In fact, the Better Hearing Institute, a non-profit organization, recommends that everyone get a hearing test at least once a decade until age 50, and every three years after that. Those in higher-risk professions or with medical histories indicating a higher risk should be tested even more frequently.

Why Get Regular Hearing Tests?

While mild hearing loss is defined as about -20 to -39 dBHL (decibels hearing level), that leaves about 20 dBHL of hearing loss that a person passes through before reaching the point of needing hearing aids. By getting your hearing tested regularly, you can find out if your hearing has declined a little bit before you actually have noticeable hearing loss. By catching hearing loss early, you may be able to slow or prevent further hearing loss.
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Preventing Hearing Loss

The best ways to slow or prevent hearing loss that we currently know about are:
  • Protect your ears when you must be exposed to sound levels at or above 85 dBA (decibels A-weighted)
  • Avoid loud listening in headphones
  • Quit smoking
  • Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet, such as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) or the Alternate Mediterranean Diet (AMED)
  • Get regular exercise
hearing loss

Hearing Loss Is Not Always Preventable

While it’s important to try to do what we can to minimize our risk for hearing loss, we may still end up experiencing some hearing loss. Researchers at the Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss note that there is a genetic component to every type of hearing loss.

About one-third of Americans aged 60–69 have hearing loss, and the fraction jumps to two-thirds for those over 70. Nearly 100% of centenarians have hearing loss, suggesting that if we live long enough, we will all eventually have it.

While this may be the case, there is a wide range of hearing loss, from mild to profound (nearly deaf). While we may not be able to guarantee that we never experience hearing loss, we may be able to limit our risk for more severe hearing loss by following the guidelines above, and getting our hearing tested regularly.

What To Expect at Your Hearing Test

The first step in a hearing test is a consultation with your audiologist. We will ask you questions about your experience of your current hearing ability, and try to assess whether the hearing loss you may have noticed has impacted your day-to-day life as well as the lives of those you are close to. We’ll ask about whether and how you started to notice hearing loss, whether you hear phantom ringing or buzzing sounds in your ears (tinnitus), or if you have dizzy spells. We’ll also ask some basic questions about your medical history.

Next, your audiologist will inspect your ears with an otoscope, just like your general practitioner does. We want to make sure there are no visually obvious problems that could be causing your experience of hearing loss, such as an obstruction in your ear canal or a perforation in your eardrum. If everything looks good, we will proceed to the hearing test. Hearing tests are quick, painless and non-invasive.

The Audiogram

The audiogram displays the results of your pure-tone test on an easily readable graph. The x-axis represents audio frequency, while the y-axis represents hearing ability at each frequency. There will be one horizontal line representing “normal” hearing, and one line each for your hearing ability in your left and right ears. Your audiologist will explain the graph to you, and whether hearing aids are recommended or not based on your results.

If hearing aids are recommended, we’ll talk about your lifestyle and the activities that are important to you. There is a wide range of hearing aid styles on the market today, and we want to make sure to match you up with the best set of hearing aids for your individual needs.

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