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Why it’s important to check your hearing regularly

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Learn why you should get your hearing tested and the benefits of treating hearing loss

You probably get yearly check-ups to monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol, and eyesight. But you should consider approaching your hearing the same way. 

Hearing loss is on the rise in the United States and is expected to almost double by the year 2060. Many people often live with untreated hearing loss for years before they get their hearing tested and treated. Among adults with hearing loss, fewer than 30% aged 70 and older has ever used hearing aids, and only 16% adults aged 20 to 69 have used them. 

Why it’s important to check your hearing regularly

Hearing is not just about your ears. It impacts many aspects of your life. It can alter your speech, strain relationships, and affect work performance. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to an increased likelihood of dementia and cognitive decline, heightened senior isolation, and higher incidences of depression. 

Discovering and treating hearing loss sooner rather than later can ultimately improve your overall health and well-being. The longer you live with hearing loss, the longer it may take to adjust when you finally seek treatment. For example, it can take time to adapt to processing sounds you haven’t heard for a long time because your brain must relearn certain sounds. 

How often should older adults have their hearing checked?

Health care professionals generally recommend getting a baseline hearing test between 18 and 21 years old. If you’re past 21 and have not had a baseline test, it’s time to set an appointment. 

A baseline hearing test provides a frame of reference for future tests. It not only measures your sensitivity to sounds (the beeps), but it also gauges your ability to understand speech, both at soft and regular volumes, and it evaluates the overall health of your ear with a visual exam.

How often you should have your hearing checked will depend on a few variables — your baseline test results, your future risk for hearing loss, and your age. If hearing loss exists at the baseline or your risk for future hearing loss is high, yearly hearing tests are usually recommended. Noise exposure at work and through recreational activities (motorcycles, loud music, etc.) and your age increase your risk of hearing loss. 

Why seniors need regular hearing tests

What is a routine hearing test in your 50s, 60s, and 70s could differ slightly from tests earlier in life. If no hearing loss is apparent in your baseline test, your provider could still recommend having your hearing evaluated every two years. According to the National Council on Aging, of people aged 65 and older, 31.1% experience hearing loss, while 40.3% of adults aged 75 and older experience hearing loss.

Untreated hearing loss can increase the risk of falls, especially in adults older than 60, who suffer the greatest number of fatal falls. In fact, using data from several national health surveys, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine found that people with mild hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. Experts theorize hearing loss affects the part of the inner ear that is key to balance and body position.

Treating hearing loss

If you’re wondering, "How do I know if I’m losing my hearing?" you can look for these signs of hearing loss:

  • Having trouble hearing over the phone
  • Having trouble understanding what other people are saying, especially in a noisy environment
  • Needing to turn up the TV volume so loud that others complain
  • Thinking that others always seem to mumble
  • Having trouble hearing high-pitched sounds and voices
  • Hearing a ringing or other unusual sound in your ears
  • Working in a noisy environment without or with inadequate ear protection

Treatment options for age-related hearing loss

About 28.8 million U.S. adults could benefit to wearing hearing aids. People who wear hearing aids have found they enjoy a better quality of life than those who let their hearing loss go untreated. According to data from The Hearing Review, 83% of hearing aid wearers are satisfied with their devices due to technology advancements and to better engage with people and in activities.

Even though it’s not guaranteed that hearing aids will prevent further hearing loss, according to the National Council on Aging, they can enhance your quality of life by:

  • Strengthening communication skills and understanding conversations
  • Exercising your brain, which decreases the risk of atrophy
  • Filtering out background noise and decreasing listening fatigue 
  • Increasing independence
  • Encouraging more social interactions
  • Minimizing ringing or buzzing sounds from tinnitus
  • Decreasing risk of falling

Depending on the severity of your hearing loss, you may need aural rehabilitation to ease the transition. Aural rehabilitation can include working on specific listening skills, using visual cues to understand conversation, learning where to position yourself in noisy environments, and joining peer support groups.

Need hearing coverage?

Wellabe has teamed up with Start Hearing® to fill hearing insurance gaps and reduce your out-of-pocket costs. Our partnership can provide full-service, competitive hearing coverage that fits your needs. To learn more or to take a free online hearing test, visit our partner page.

Photo credit: iStock

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