When and How Often Should You Have a Diagnostic Hearing Test?
The short and quick answer is: it varies from patient to patient and depends on a wide range of factors that can affect your hearing, from your age and profession, to previously diagnosed hearing loss. We’ll help you find out if and how often you should get your hearing tested!
Hearing loss can be affected by a whole list of causes. The rate of deterioration varies, however, and most hearing loss cases slowly progress over time. Overall, there is no one-size-fits-all timeframe for having a hearing test, but this article will provide a rough approximation and the reasoning behind it.
Do You Have Confirmed Hearing Loss?
Do you already know that you have hearing loss as confirmed by a previous diagnostic hearing test? Hearing loss is dynamic, meaning it can change over time. You should therefore carefully monitor its progress and get your hearing checked once every 12 months, as soon as you notice any changes, or as agreed upon with your GP and trusted audiologist.
There are multiple other pathologies that would also suggest having a yearly hearing test, however:
- Acoustic neuromas are tumours which develop on the hearing nerve. Acoustic neuromas are typically a very slow progression in nature. Common symptoms for acoustic neuromas are facial numbness, unsteadiness, balance problems, unilateral tinnitus, poorer hearing in the one ear, and blockage sensation in the affected ear. Again, these are rough timeframes. Your treating otolaryngologist would be the one to provide you with a timeframe. Otolaryngologists usually require a hearing test as part of their continual monitoring of your acoustic neuroma in order to determine whether further treatment is necessary.
- Meniere’s disease. Another ear pathology which may require an annual hearing review is Meniere’s disease. The classical symptoms of Meniere’s disease are vertigo with nausea/vomiting, a blockage sensation, unilateral tinnitus, and poorer hearing in the affected ear. These classical symptoms can fluctuate for Meniere’s disease patients (e.g. intermittent fluctuating unilateral tinnitus, fluctuating hearing loss, etc. in the affected ear). In a similar vein to above, a hearing test prior to seeing your otolaryngologist is necessary to assess the potential need to alter your management plan if needed.
Hearing Tests for Hearing Aid Users
Hearing aid users are recommended to have their hearing tested every 12 months, no matter whether their hearing loss is acquired or genetically inherited. As hearing deterioration is often subtle, you might not be unaware of it happening. A hearing test will give you clarity and peace of mind as you can monitor your condition.
As a hearing aid user, what signs of hearing deterioration should you watch out for?
For hearing aid users, common signs that your hearing has deteriorated may be:
- The need to increase the TV volume.
- Trouble keeping up in conversations and feeling that other people seem to be mumbling or slurring their speech and language.
- On the other hand, some sounds seem overly loud or annoying.
- Tinnitus is another indication for the worsening of your hearing loss; Tinnitus can be in one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral). Given hearing deterioration, adjusting your hearing aid’s gain usually helps manage tinnitus.
Hearing Aids Need Servicing Too
If sounds suddenly feel distorted or the volume has decreased, there could be another problem.
Sometimes a change in hearing has nothing to do with your ears, but with the fact that your hearing aids need to be serviced and adjusted. The average lifespan of a hearing aid is five to seven years. Afterwards, you will typically get a new, more modern pair that suit your current level of hearing loss.
For more information about hearing aid servicing, click here.
Hearing Tests for At-Risk Groups
Adults Over the Age of 60
Age-related hearing loss, also often referred to as presbycusis, is a common issue for older generations. About one-third of adults between the ages of 65 to 70 are said to have some form of hearing loss. Presbycusis is usually seen by the age of 60 and is slow progressing by nature. Your age is therefore a good reason to have your hearing tested annually. The earlier hearing loss is picked up, the better; untreated hearing loss bears many risks to your mental and physical health.
Exposure to Industrial Noise
If you work in environments involving excessive industrial noise, we also recommended having annual hearing checks to monitor your hearing and any noise-induced hearing loss. These hearing tests are also used to evaluate whether any implemented hearing protection policies need to be reviewed. You should consider seeking additional testing if you notice at any point that your hearing has deteriorated.
Hearing Tests for Musicians
It is not uncommon for musicians and their fans to be exposed to extremely loud noise for prolonged periods of time. This puts both groups at an increased risk of noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus. Regular hearing tests can help to detect the early onset of noise-induced hearing loss and the wearing of custom-made hearing protection can prevent further damage. For musicians and music lovers, we recommend having a comprehensive hearing check once a year.
Hearing Tests for Children
Hearing loss can occur at all ages, from newborns to the elderly. Children are more susceptible to middle ear issues such as ear infections or eustachian tube dysfunction. They often ‘outgrow’ middle ear-related issues as they progress to the later stages of their childhood. It can therefore be difficult to determine how often a child should have a hearing test.
One way to have a better understanding is to look out for signs of middle ear issues. If your child reports pain or ringing in either one or both ears, it may be a sign to have their hearing tested. If your child is not yet speaking, a pulling of the ears may be another sign to express discomfort.
Fluid discharging from the ear is another sign to book your child in for a hearing test. As the passages of our ears, nose, and throat are intertwined, colder seasons often see a greater influx of children coming in for hearing tests due to congestion related issues.
Other Reasons to Have Your Hearing Checked
Medication can have a detrimental effect on your hearing, and unfortunately, it’s often permanent. Antibiotics such as gentamicin, and platinum-based chemotherapy agents (e.g. cisplatin, carboplatin, etc.) can bring upon or aggravate existing tinnitus. Aminoglycoside antibiotic-induced hearing loss may not necessarily show on your hearing test straight away, and it can occur many months after completing treatment. Therefore, you should consider having your hearing tested further down the road of your treatment journey if you notice hearing changes or ringing in your ears.
Patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment with ototoxic agents usually have their hearing tested at the hospital according to their treatment plan. Chemotherapy patients have their hearing tested frequently, often after completing a cycle of treatment. Patients can also expect to have their hearing tested months after completing their treatment, as the effects of their medication may show up well after completing treatment.
Otosclerosis is a condition affecting the bone structure behind the eardrum, and it can affect either ear. Otosclerosis usually involves the smallest last bone fixating onto the cochlear due to abnormal bone growth, limiting the lever movement of the bones (the mechanism amplifying sound in your ear).
Otosclerosis can be inherited. It is more common in females and often accelerated after conceiving. Therefore, if you have a family history of otosclerosis and experience hearing loss and tinnitus in either one or both ears, it may be time to have your hearing tested. If you are diagnosed with otosclerosis, the treating otolaryngologist will set a timeframe for routine checks which usually involve having your hearing tested again. Routine hearing checks may range from annually to once every few years.
Wrapping It Up
Hearing loss can be genetically inherited or acquired due to noise-exposure, the effects of aging, or the side effects of medication. Since hearing loss is dynamic and often progresses slowly, which unfortunately means it can go undetected and worsen over time. The risks of undetected hearing loss are manifold. As a result, ongoing hearing tests are recommended for high-risk groups such as people above the age of 60, industry workers, and musicians.
The aforementioned time frames are geared towards high risk groups and the most common conditions affecting their hearing are only guidelines. The actual time between routine appointments may vary and should align with the requirements of each unique medical condition.
Don’t take your hearing health lightly. If you have any concerns or suspect that you may be suffering from hearing loss, please discuss your options with your GP or a trusted and licensed audiologist.