Think back to the last time you got your hearing checked – when was that? For some of us, the last time we had a hearing screening was back in grade school when it was completed yearly by a school nurse. For others who have visited an audiologist recently, hearing tests are a not so distant memory. With hearing loss listed in the top 3 American health issues, why isn’t your hearing checked more often?
Where to get your hearing checked
Chances are, if you go to your primary care physician they will not test for hearing loss unless you specifically request an exam. If they can take your blood pressure and pull blood samples for testing, it seems as if they should also do a basic test for hearing. However, before you blame your doctor, know that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force conducted research into hearing test requirements. They concluded that for adults over the age of 50 who aren’t showing symptoms of hearing loss, there isn’t enough evidence proving the necessity of screening in opposition to the potential detriments (primarily time and money).
In other words, the team of federally-funded medical professionals didn’t find a high enough success rate in testing and treatment of hearing loss to warrant making it a requirement for yearly physicals. With further research and larger sample sizes this information could change, but for now this is the standard for primary care physicians.
That being said, if you believe you experience hearing loss, discuss options with your doctor. They can complete basic checks to ensure there are no blockages in the ear canal and can even conduct a whisper test for a general metric. From there, your primary care physician might refer you to an audiologist, ear nose and throat doctor (ENT), or other hearing specialist for further testing. AARP reports that 63% of Americans turn to their primary doctor first to determine where to go next in their hearing health journey.
Benefits of hearing tests
Clearly the number one benefit of getting your hearing tested is knowing how to move forward with treatment. You could be at a stage of minimal hearing loss where devices are not necessary, or you may benefit from early detection and adoption of a hearing aid. Ignoring hearing loss may lead to social isolation, worsened memory, decline in relationships, and even depression, so prevention and treatment are paramount. By broaching the topic of hearing loss with your physician, you open the door to self-advocacy and awareness of your own body.
Additionally, the International Hearing Society conducted research into the benefits of physicians discussing hearing loss with their patients and found that even the conversation about hearing leads to a higher adoption rate of hearing aids, a lower stigma towards treatment, and a stronger bond of trust between patient and doctor. Why not start the conversation with your own doctor and protect your hearing now and later in life?