When Is A Hearing Test Recommended?

Man having trouble hearingDoctors are recommending hearing tests more and more frequently. A lot of recent research has made doctors aware that hearing loss is a frequent early marker for many associated ailments (co-morbidities).

I recommend everyone have a hearing test, it’s a very important piece of your medical file. Have it documented – be able to show where your hearing is at right now so that comparisons can be made down the road, especially in case of an injury or illness.

Most of my hearing tests are still self-referred. What makes these people decide when to get tested? Below are some signs to watch for. If you see these, don’t delay; either get tested or recommend testing to your loved one.

Again, don’t delay. The costs of ongoing untreated hearing loss are far too high: The Costs of Untreated Hearing Loss

Hearing but not understanding (aka “everybody mumbles”). When we hear but don’t understand, we have hearing loss. Either the sound is not getting to the inner ear (possibly due to a wax impaction) or the inner ear is compromised. This is the number one sign that it’s time for a full hearing evaluation.

Hearing loss can make it hard to hear in places with lots of background noise, such as in planes or cars, at a party, in a restaurant, and especially when there are a lot of people talking.

Raised eyebrows with that hand-behind-the-ear look? Once or twice a day may be no big thing. If you catch yourself expecting to have to ask for a repeat, it’s time to learn the score.

We all miss things… occasionally.  People expect that. If others seem surprised that you missed something, then expectations aren’t being met. Surprises may be fun on a carnival ride — they’re not that fun in relationships.

Are you free to go anywhere with anyone and not have to worry about hearing? Are your significant others free to live their lives without having to constantly perform as your hearing aid? Those who discover the truth about their hearing begin their path to freedom.

Those surprised looks are concern – not ridicule. Increased loudness is meant to be helpful — not confrontational. You’ve heard the soldiers’ joke that “They treat us like mushrooms — keep us in the dark and feed us bullshit”. Hearing loss reduces information. Lack of information breeds suspicion, fears and paranoia. Just a drop of paranoia is enough to sour attitudes, relationships and conversations.

This is the number one concern I hear from family members. No matter how great looking you are, they don’t want you around just for eye candy. They want you sharing life with them.

Patients almost always say, “I hear you fine!” Sometimes I reply, “Sure, I have a voice built for the stage and a face built for radio.” The point is that hearing some people some of the time is no indicator of hearing health.

When everything is perfect — no background noise, close proximity, talking in complete sentences, no accent, no gum chewing, not talking too fast, and the speaker has a strong, clear voice — even someone with very profound hearing loss has no trouble understanding. They can miss one or two words out of a five-word sentence and never miss a beat.

People with good hearing don’t need to have everything perfect. They hear fine when life-is-as-life-is: imperfect.  Not hearing well when life-is-as-life-is points the finger at only one thing: hearing loss. Not hearing well doesn’t happen because people mumble, the wife’s getting older, poor phone connections, customer reps have accents, or the “vast increase in background noise everywhere”.  At some point, it’s time to stop assuming everything else is to blame and find out what the hearing situation really is.  If it’s just impacted ear wax then that’s what needs to be coming out — not blaming.

If you’re frequently turning up the volume to the point that others complain about how loud it is, the problem may not be with your TV or radio.

Tinnitus, or a ringing sound in your ears, particularly after exposure to very loud noises, can be a warning sign of hearing loss.

I live where bull elk whistle in the fall and high mountain peepers (little meadow frogs) sing in the snow melt. I’ve seen some damn tough old cowboys go glassy-eyed when their new hearing aids re-introduce these things.

Hearing loss is blindness of the ears that can happen so slowly you get used to the dark. Experiencing hearing loss can cause you to miss out on many of these everyday sounds.

Hearing loss may also make it difficult for you to hear well when talking on the phone, particularly on a cell phone or in a noisy area where there’s lots of background noise. Modern telephone connections are seldom as troublesome as old-school analog connections were. As with all other areas of avoiding listening, if you’re starting to shy away from the frustrations of trying to hear over the phone – get your hearing checked.

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