The new year is here! If you are looking for a new year’s resolution that can improve your life and create good habits, might we suggest resolving to get your hearing tested this month? A hearing exam is an important part of maintaining your health and wellbeing. Scheduling an annual hearing test helps you connect with treatment when issues arise. Best of all, getting a diagnostic hearing evaluation is a straightforward and non-invasive exam – it is easy and painless to accurately map your hearing, identify issues and find treatments that work.
How Hearing Loss Develops
There are many ways that hearing loss can occur, but by far the most common is permanent hearing loss brought on by exposure to dangerously loud noise. Excessively loud sounds strain the tiny sensory cells that detect sound waves entering the inner ear. These little hair cells are so fragile that they cannot be replaced or repaired if they are broken, so once a hair cell is damaged, it is permanently out of commission.
If we aren’t observant of the noise levels around us, compounded hearing damage can turn into significant hearing loss that continues to worsen as we age. Since most hearing loss is permanent and it progresses, diagnosing hearing loss and treating it early is easier than delaying having your hearing issue checked.
In today’s noisy world nearly 15% of Americans live with hearing loss. Despite how common hearing loss is, treating hearing loss when it arises isn’t the norm. On average, people wait seven years from the time when they first notice a hearing problem until they seek help for it. Delaying hearing care makes little sense, especially when you consider the other factors that depend on healthy hearing: our quality of life and cognitive health and even our earning power all take a hit when hearing loss is left ignored.
What Is a Hearing Test?
Not sure what to expect from a hearing test? The good news is that, unlike many medical tests, hearing exams are straightforward and non-invasive. Hearing tests look at your hearing from a few perspectives: your hearing history, a physical examination of the ear and a tone test.
In the first part of testing you’ll talk with your hearing specialist about how and where you use your hearing and if you have noticed any changes in how you hear recently. Parts of your health history may also be relevant factors, such as medications you take or any history you may have with balance issues or tinnitus. If hearing loss affects you, then taking into consideration factors about your lifestyle and health can help build the most effective and practical plan of treatment. Establishing a health history can also help pinpoint what hearing issues are caused by and if they are having a negative impact on your life.
Before the tone test begins, your hearing specialist will examine your ears looking for anything that may physically get in the way of your hearing. An otoscope is used for scanning your ear canal for obstructions, like impacted earwax, or signs of infection or irritation. An ear infection can cause inflammation that can make the ear painful and limit hearing. Most obstructions can be removed by your hearing specialists and infections treated with prescribed medications.
The most analytic part of the hearing exam will be doing a tone test. Wearing headphones, you’ll be asked to respond each time you detect a tone being played in your ear. Tones are played randomly, at various volumes and ranging from very high to very low frequencies. Your responses to the tonal sounds are charted into a diagram called an audiogram. The audiogram is what will be used to determine if there is hearing loss. Trouble hearing is often clustered in certain frequency ranges, and your audiogram will show exactly where your hearing struggled.
If all is well with your hearing, then your audiogram will be kept on file to establish your health history and so that changes can be tracked on future hearing tests. When hearing loss is present, you’ll sit down with your hearing specialist to talk about treatment. Hearing loss is permanent, but treatment works to lessen the impact hearing loss has on your life.
Want to cross that resolution off your list? Contact Able Hearing today to set up your annual hearing exam.