It’s a fact that people’s hearing often does get worse as they get older. But for the average person, aging does not cause impaired hearing before at least the age of 60. People who are not exposed to noise and are otherwise healthy, keep their hearing for many years. People who are exposed to high levels of noise early in life and do not protect their hearing begin to lose their hearing much sooner. For example, by age 25 the average carpenter who does not use hearing protection has “50-year old” ears! In other words, he or she has the same hearing as someone who is 50 years old but has worked in a quiet job.
Like the old song says, “You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.” That is certainly true for your hearing! While we take for granted that our hearing will deteriorate as we get older, that’s not necessarily the case. Medications you take, illnesses, family history, or environmental factors can all affect your hearing, and sometimes at a surprisingly early age.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Health & Safety, anyone regularly exposed to hazardous noise should have an annual hearing test. Also, anyone who notices a change in his/ her hearing (or who develops tinnitus) should have his or her ears checked immediately. The Institute recommends that people who have healthy ears and who are not exposed to hazardous noise should get a hearing test every three years. While some hearing clinics charge for a hearing test, at Hogan’s Hearing they are free of charge.
So what’s involved in a hearing test? Without getting too technical, “testing” is actually an oversimplified way of describing the process. It is really an evaluation to see how well, or how poorly, you hear and understand speech. Furthermore, it is not just one test. The process includes a whole series of tests. What you are actually getting is a complete audiological evaluation which is only done by registered, university-trained audiologists. This process could consist of eight or more separate tests, depending on your particular situation.
Hearing evaluations are done under carefully-controlled clinical conditions. They are designed to give consistent results no matter who tests your hearing; to document and compare changes in your hearing from one time period to another; and to compare your hearing to that of normal hearing people. The results of these tests only reflect how well you hear under ideal listening conditions. In real-world situations, your hearing will typically be worse.
Establishing that all-important baseline for tracking hearing changes should be part of every-one’s health and wellness strategy. As the old Joni Mitchell song goes, they may “have paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” but that doesn’t have to apply to your hearing. Regular testing can identify small problems before they become big ones and preserve the “paradise” of great hearing for many, if not all, the years of your life!