Most parents are aware that their children should have hearing tests performed early and often due to the changes that can occur during growth. Likewise, many senior citizens are pretty good about working to maintain their hearing health as they age.
What is not so well known, however, is how often anyone should be seeing an audiologist for a thorough hearing exam. The frequency with which one should have a hearing test performed depends on several factors, including age, occupation, and other illnesses from which one may suffer.
Birth to 3 Years
It is estimated that one to three out of every 1,000 babies are born with a permanent hearing loss in the U.S. each year. For this reason, hearing exams are recommended right from birth. Due to an infants inability to actively participate in a hearing test, the screenings will be done using what is known as Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE).
When the probe is placed in a child’s ear, the cochlea should send a signal to the brain and produce an acoustic emission, a sound wave response back to the probe. If the child does not pass this test, he or she will be referred for further testing. Over the years, illness, accident, and genetic factors can affect the child’s hearing sometimes making ongoing subjective testing important as the child grows.
3 to 18
As children age, their ability to play an active role in their hearing exams increases and, as such, the methods used also change. The minimum standard for hearing tests in educational settings lays out clear guidelines for school-aged children.
For children aged 3 to 18-years old, audiologists will first use pure tone screening. For those in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade, tympanometry will be used in conjunction with this pure tone screening. The guidelines include the minimum grades in which children should be retested as they age. The timeline calls for screenings in preschool, kindergarten, first, third, and fifth grade. With one final test in either seventh or ninth grade.
18 to 50
Hearing loss is not relegated to newborn babies, growing children, or the elderly. Though less likely, those aged 18 to 50 years of age should have routine hearing tests performed. Failing to do so may mean the difference between finding a problem early on versus waiting until irreparable damage has occurred.
Hearing loss can happen gradually, especially when it is caused by occupational factors, lifestyle choices, illness, or medication. For this reason, experts recommend that adults have their hearing checked every three to five years as part of their annual physical exam. Additionally, they suggest seeing an audiologist to establish a baseline test.
50 and Above
Several factors deem regular hearing exams necessary for those over the age of 50 years. Males, Caucasians, blue-collar workers, smokers, and those with a family history of hearing loss, hypertension, diabetes, long periods of exposure to loud noises, and lower education levels, are at a high risk for impairment as they age.
In addition to the aforementioned factors, an age-related hearing loss will also occur, sometimes slowly, but this damage is permanent. Therefore, audiology experts recommend that hearing exams be performed every year so that interventions and treatments can begin as soon as early as possible.
Even if you don’t fall into one of the high-risk categories for likely hearing loss, there are other lifestyle choices that may put you in danger of encountering issues. Despite regulations implemented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), many occupations are still causing a whopping 19 percent of exposed workers to suffer from hearing impairment.
Those employed in noisy environments including industrial machine operations and music production are encouraged to not only try protecting themselves as well as possible, but to also have their hearing checked more often than others. These adult patients’ audiologists usually suggest testing occur at each annual visit instead of waiting the standard three to five years.
Many causes of hearing loss are easily repaired, such as the buildup of wax in the ear canal. In those cases, a quick trip to an audiologist has the potential to restore your hearing and help patients return to living their lives as usual. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
If you notice a marked change in your ability to hear in noisy environments or comprehend either low or high pitched speech, it may be time for additional hearing tests. Even if you have followed the suggested guidelines, it is still a good idea to see your audiologist if you or your family has seen changes in your hearing abilities.
Hearing loss can occur slowly and without warning. In addition, the symptoms are very subjective and sometimes difficult to recognize. These are the main reasons why hearing experts have set clear guidelines for routine hearing tests.