Hearing Test
Reasons to Get One, Associated Risks & What to Expect

Hearing Test May Also Be Known as:

  • Hearing exam
  • Hearing loss test
  • Hearing testing



6 Reasons You Would Need a Hearing Test

1. Suspected Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can happen gradually over several years and might be difficult to detect right away. If you have difficulty hearing people in noisy, crowded rooms or have been told you listen to music or the television too loudly, it’s possible you may be experiencing hearing loss. A hearing test can determine whether you suffer from hearing problems, so you can receive a hearing aid or other treatments that improve your ability to hear.

2. Dementia Prevention

The brains of older adults with hearing loss tend to shrink at a noticeably faster rate than those without hearing loss, leading to loss of brain tissue. Brain tissue loss can lead to worsened mental health and cognitive abilities, as well as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.[1] Receiving a hearing test regularly and being treated for hearing loss early on might help reduce your risk for cognitive decline and related medical conditions.

3. Detection for Diabetes and Heart Disease

Hearing loss can indicate that you suffer from an underlying medical condition, such as heart disease or diabetes. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and diabetes ranks seventh.[2] An estimated 75% of people over the age of 70 with heart failure also suffer hearing loss.[3] Adults with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer hearing loss than their non-diabetic counterparts.[4]

Heart disease can restrict blood flow to the ear, causing hearing loss and chronically high blood sugar levels in those with diabetes, and can damage blood vessels and nerves in the ear, which also leads to hearing loss. A hearing test can bring you one step closer to finding out whether you have a serious medical condition that affects your hearing.

4. Mental Illness Prevention

Hearing loss that goes untreated has been shown to contribute to depression and social isolation, as hearing loss makes it difficult and frustrating to communicate effectively with others. An estimated 11.4% of adults with hearing loss suffer from moderate to severe depression, compared with nearly 6% of adults without hearing loss.[5] People with hearing loss also tend to suffer higher rates of stress and suicidal ideation than those with better hearing.[6] A hearing test allows you to detect problems with hearing loss early, before it can negatively interfere with your relationships, social life, and mental health.

5. Lower Risk of Falling

Hearing loss is not a direct risk factor for falling, but evidence suggests a strong association between hearing loss and an increased number of incident falls.[7] Hearing can affect balance and gait, so those with hearing loss might be more prone to falls. Loss of hearing can also make you less aware of your environment and surroundings, possibly increasing the risk of a fall. A hearing test can detect hearing loss early on, so you can reduce your risk for falling and avoid fractures and sprains caused by these accidents.

6. Boosting Overall Ear Health

A hearing test could boost your overall ear health by making you aware of circumstances and factors that can cause hearing loss. Factors that contribute to hearing loss include wax buildup, ear infections, medications, and regular exposure to loud noises at work or at places such as concerts and music halls.[8] Identifying these risk factors for hearing loss and making healthy changes to your lifestyle early on could help prevent the onset of hearing loss.

Understanding a Hearing Test

Hearing tests evaluate your ability to hear sounds at different volumes, allowing doctors to diagnose and treat possible hearing loss and other hearing problems. Roughly half of people over the age of 75 experience hearing problems, while an estimated one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 suffer from hearing loss.[9] A hearing test can be performed every few years during your annual physical so you can manage your ear health and benefit from good hearing as you continue to age. Children can receive a hearing test during their toddler years and undergo yearly testing after they begin school.

Risks of a Hearing Test

Hearing tests are noninvasive and painless, and they normally take place in quiet, comfortable environments that block outside noise and sounds. You might be required to wear headphones or earbuds connected to devices that conduct the hearing test.

What to Expect With a Hearing Test

A hearing test might last about 30 minutes and does not require you to undergo any invasive procedures. It might take place in a quiet room at a doctor’s office where you can sit in a booth as you take the test. Using headphones, you listen to a series of short tones played at different volumes and pitches to determine whether you can hear each type of sound. These sounds play in one ear at a time so hearing can be properly evaluated in each ear. In some instances, your doctor will use an otoscope to blow a puff of air into each ear to check the eardrums.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Hearing Tests

  • Will the results of a hearing test reveal the exact nature of my hearing problem?
  • How quickly will I receive hearing test results?
  • When should I receive my next hearing test?
  • Will the sounds played during the hearing test cause an ear ache?
  • How should I prepare for a hearing test?

Sources

  1. National Library of Medicine. Hearing Impairment Affects Dementia Incidence. An Analysis Based on Longitudinal Health Claims Data in Germany. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4938406/
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Leading Causes of Death. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm
  3. JAMA Network. Hearing Loss Among Older Adults With Heart Failure in the United States. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaotolaryngology/article-abstract/2668608
  4. National Institute of Health. Hearing Loss Is Common in People With Diabetes. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/hearing-loss-common-people-diabetes
  5. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. NIDCD researchers find strong link between hearing loss and depression in adults. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/news/2014/nidcd-researchers-find-strong-link-between-hearing-loss-and-depression-adults
  6. National Library of Medicine. Mental Health of the People With Hearing Impairment in Korea: A Population-Based Cross-Sectional Study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5371585/
  7. National Library of Medicine. Hearing Loss and Falls Among Older Adults in the United States. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3518403/
  8. National Library of Medicine. Hearing loss. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003044.htm
  9. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Hearing Loss and Older Adults. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing-loss-older-adults

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