How Often Should You Have Your Hearing Tested?
Having a physical every year is part of normal everyday life in Tucson, Arizona. Along with an eye exam and a dental cleaning it seems that every part of you is checked out and given the green light for another year. So why not your ears?
Audiologist agree that it is important to get a regular hearing test, not just when you notice you are missing parts of the conversation.
For children, routine hearing screenings begin right after they are born. Newborn hearing screenings are performed on every child in the hospital with an otoacoustic emissions (OAE) test or the automated auditory brainstem response (AABR) test. Children either pass or fail this hearing test.
Hearing Tests for Children
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends frequent hearing exams for any child with known health or listening needs; speech, language or developmental delays; or a family history of hearing loss. In addition, hearing tests should be conducted:
- At school entry for all children
- At ages six, eight and ten
- At least once during middle school
- At least once during high school
- For any child entering a new school system with no evidence of a previous hearing screening.
Hearing Tests for Adults
Adults should also be tested. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) [http://www.asha.org/] hearing screenings should be completed at least once every 10 years until the age of 50; after that, hearing tests should be completed every three years. Tests must be conducted more often if you have any of the following risk factors:
- Occupational or recreational noise exposure
- Family history of hearing loss
- Viral or bacterial infections
- Specific medication use linked to hearing loss
- A head injury.
When is the last time you had your hearing checked?
Chances are, if you cannot remember, you are probably long overdue. But why are hearing tests so important?
It turns out, not all patients who experience hearing loss are aware of their condition. Symptoms tend to develop gradually over an extended period of time. Hearing tests may help detect a problem early, improving your chances of successful treatment.
Hearing tests are completely safe and painless. They are performed in a soundproof booth and results are plotted on a graph that shows your hearing response at different frequencies. This is called an audiogram, and will help the audiologist determine the best way to treat your hearing loss.
A typical hearing evaluation is comprised of a number of separate hearing tests, including:
- Pure Tone Testing. Pure-tone testing (also known as pure tone audiometry) uses air conduction to measure your ability to hear sounds of various pitches and volumes. Wearing headphones, you will be asked to identify a series of tones by raising a hand, pressing a button or responding verbally. The results are charted on an audiogram, a graph that shows the type, degree and configuration of your hearing loss by comparing pitch (frequency) with loudness (intensity). The pattern recorded will help your audiologist determine your hearing threshold.
- Bone Conduction Testing. Bone conduction testing is another type of pure-tone test that measures the inner ear’s response to sound. In this case, a two-pronged metal tuning fork is placed behind the ear or on the forehead. When vibrated, it produces a tone that travels to the cochlea via the skull. Your response determines how well sound travels through different parts of your ear, helping the audiologist diagnose your type of hearing loss. Bone conduction testing is often used in place of air conduction testing when an obstruction in the outer or middle ears is present.
- Speech Testing. Speech (or word recognition) testing is used to measure your speech reception threshold (SRT), or the faintest speech you can understand 50 percent of the time. This is compared with your pure-tone test results to confirm the diagnosis. In addition, your ability to separate speech from background noise will be recorded. Speech testing may be administered in either a quiet or noisy environment; results are recorded on the audiogram for easy visual reference.
- Tympanometry. Tympanometry is a test of the middle ear used to detect fluid, wax buildup, eardrum perforations and tumors. It measures movement of the eardrum in response to air pressure; the results are recorded on a chart called a tympanogram.
- Acoustic Reflex Testing. The acoustic reflex test measures involuntary muscle contractions of the middle ear, and is used to determine the location of your hearing problem (the ossicles, cochlea, auditory nerve, etc.) as well as the type of hearing loss.
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR). Auditory brainstem response testing is used to determine whether a specific type of hearing loss—sensorineural—exists. It is also frequently used to screen newborns for hearing problems. In an ABR test, electrodes are attached to your head, scalp or earlobes, and you are given headphones to wear. Your brainwave activity is measured in response to sounds of varying intensities.
- Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs). Otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) are sounds generated by vibrations of the hair cells in the cochlea of the inner ear. OAE testing utilizes a tiny probe fitted with a microphone and speaker that is used to stimulate the cochlea and measure its response. Individuals with normal hearing will produce emissions; when a hearing loss exceeds 25-30 decibels, no sound will be produced. This helps determine whether there is a blockage in the ear canal, excess fluid in the middle ear or damage to the hair cells of the cochlea. OAE testing is often included in newborn hearing screening programs.
For more information or to schedule a hearing screening, contact your local Tucson audiologist today.