When you go to the doctor for your yearly physical (as you should be), sometimes it can seem like they are constantly trying to get you to perform a never-ending set of tests. While some of them are well-intentioned, others may seem frivolous to some.
Unfortunately, the hearing test is one of the tests that many patients choose to opt out of. They think that their hearing is perfectly fine and that a hearing test is just another unnecessary procedure designed to run up their bill.
In actuality, a hearing test is one of the most important tests that you undergo during your appointment.
Hollywood movies tend to depict hearing loss as the sole result of loud bangs and explosions. In real life, this simply isn’t accurate. Ask anybody who’s experienced hearing loss, and the majority of them will say that it slowly crept up on them without their realizing.
Sometimes it can take 10 to 15 years of constant exposure to noises that slowly damage your hearing bit by bit. In most cases, you won’t even be able to notice it because it happens so gradually. This is the most dangerous form of hearing loss, and the reason why hearing tests are so important.
If you can catch hearing loss in its early stages and implement the necessary lifestyle changes, hearing protection, or hearing aids, then you have a better chance at stopping the hearing loss from progressing further.
Hearing tests are brief and usually last less than 5 minutes. In addition to this, they are usually covered by insurance, which means that you have no excuse not to have one performed.
Hearing damage is most often experienced by people who work around machinery or sound equipment all day. You don’t have to be working beside of a giant metal grinder, either. Hearing damage can start with continued exposure at as low as 85dB. To give you an example, that’s about as loud as a commercial dishwasher.
That means if you’re constantly around a dishwasher, small power equipment, or even listening to planes fly over for 8 hours per day, that you’re at risk for hearing damage.
The higher that the level of dB is, the less exposure that you need to sustain permanent hearing loss. Once you get up to 140 dB (the sound of an average rifle shot), you risk immediate damage.
Here’s a quick list of harmful decibel levels and their common equivalents:
If you opt to receive a hearing test at the doctor’s office, these are the steps that you can expect to go through.
Your doctor will start by asking you what some of your daily habits are and what your work environment looks like. They will usually ask if you wear any sort of hearing protection while you're performing these activities, and how many of them are necessary and unavoidable (e.g., part of your job duties).
They will typically ask you about your family history, if you’ve experienced any pain, or tinnitus in recent months. These questions may seem a bit pointless at first, but if you do end up having hearing loss, your doctor can use these notes to better identify what the causes are and what can be done to prevent further damage.
Make sure that you are giving honest answers and accurate figures. Your doctor is there to help you, not judge you.
After you’ve answered your basic questions, you will then be led into a soundproof room and be asked to wear a pair of headphones. Your doctor will play various hearing test tones and beeps at both high and low frequencies.
After each tone, you will be asked to identify whether or not you heard it, and if you heard it in one ear or both. This will go on for one or two minutes, and the results are usually recorded into a small computer program which analyzes the data.
As soon as you finish, the results should be ready. Your doctor will tell you how well you scored and if your hearing is above or below where it should be. If you have sustained some hearing loss, your doctor will talk with you and try to identify where the problem may have started.
If it’s a work-related problem, a pair of noise-reducing earplugs will most likely be recommended. If you’ve sustained significant hearing loss, then your doctor will likely recommend you to an audiologist to get fitted for special hearing protection and talk about the possibility of using hearing aids.
Luckily, hearing aids are better and cheaper than ever. We have reviewed several great models in the ‘Reviews’ section of our website, if you are looking to find a good fit.
In recent years, the online hearing test has risen in popularity. Essentially, you just listen to the same high-frequency hearing test tones that you would listen to in the doctor's office, but on your computer. While they are made with the best of intentions, these online hearing tests often aren't 100% accurate.
One of the main problems is that your computer speakers or your headphones might not be able to playback some of the higher tones, and you'll falsely mark that you didn't hear it. In a doctor's office, they use special noise-canceling headphones that have been tested to play all of the test tones.
Online hearing tests can give you a good general idea of where your hearing stands, but they should be no means be used as conclusive information. If you suspect that you have sustained hearing loss, or are experiencing inner-ear pain, tinnitus, or ringing of the ears, then you should schedule a hearing test with your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis.hearing aids