Start Your New Year with Better Hearing!

Start Your New Year with Better Hearing!

No matter who you are or what stage of life you happen to be in, it’s never a bad idea to get a hearing test. Why is that? Regular hearing tests help ensure that you are doing a good job of protecting your hearing from loud noise, as well as mitigating the modifiable risk factors that have more to do with lifestyle than noise exposure.

Regular tests also help you avoid a gap in your hearing ability, between having normal hearing and beginning treatment for hearing loss. The sooner you start to wear hearing aids, once your unaided hearing ability has decreased to the level of “mild hearing loss,” the more likely you are to avoid the complications that come with untreated hearing loss. These can include everything from depression, to decreased physical activity, to a greater likelihood of accidental injury, and even a significantly increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia. To put it mildly, those who need hearing aids really need to wear them!

Here are a few good reasons to start your new year off right with a hearing test!

Not Just For Those Who Need Hearing Aids

Many people assume that hearing tests are only for people who have a problem, much like a vision test. But there’s a big difference between how we hear and how we see! Just about anyone who needs eyeglasses can determine that just by looking around and seeing how blurry everything looks! With hearing loss, it’s often someone else who tells us that we may be having trouble hearing properly. The brain adjusts very quickly to a changed frequency response in our hearing ability, so sounds don’t really appear “blurry” to us. It often takes a long time to realize that other people are hearing something that we’re simply not able to hear.

More than that, hearing tests can reveal underlying medical issues, or early stages of hearing loss that we may be able to stop in their tracks with a simple change or two in our lifestyle. Maybe we need to start wearing earplugs more regularly, or stop smoking. Maybe we can alter our diet to prevent further hearing loss by getting more necessary nutrients that support healthy hearing. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to remember that everyone can benefit from a hearing test—not just those who think they might have a hearing problem!

Diagnosing an Underlying Medical Condition

The vast majority of hearing loss requiring hearing aids is age-related. This type of hearing loss is called “presbycusis.” While the community of audiologists has not reached full consensus that “age-related hearing loss” is caused by aging, the statistics are pretty striking: about one-third of those aged 65–74 have hearing loss, and about half of those aged 75 and up have it.

However, even if you happen to be in one of these age groups, it’s important to remember that hearing loss can also be caused by diabetes, high blood pressure, or an underlying heart condition that hasn’t been diagnosed yet. We might think of our hearing as the “canary in the coalmine” of our body. When there’s a problem, the tiny, sensitive parts of our inner ears are likely to experience the effect before our larger organs.

Preventing Problematic Hearing Loss

About 20% of teenagers have noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). While this is very unfortunate, it’s also the case that most of their hearing loss does not require treatment with hearing aids, and probably will not require it for a long time to come.

However, it’s important to recognize that we have minor hearing loss as early as possible. When we can see that noise is actually doing damage to our hearing, we can start to recognize the times when it’s important to protect our ears with earplugs or earmuffs. By getting a regular hearing test, we can check up on how our hearing protection is working for us, so that we can experience as little NIHL as possible.

Sounds as low as 85 dBA (decibels A-weighted) can cause hearing loss after about 8 hours of continuous exposure, and for every additional 3 dBA, the safe period of exposure is cut in half. It’s important to remember this, and regularly check our hearing as we go through life to make sure that, by the time we do need hearing aids, we’ll need to rely on them as little as possible.

Make your 2023 New Year’s Resolution to visit a hearing care practitioner and get a hearing test!