Hearing tests offer invaluable insights into your health. Because ears are so sensitive, hearing tests can sometimes detect early signs of other heatlh issues. What will you learn from a hearing evaluation?
What Is a Hearing Test?
There are different types of hearing tests, but the standard evaluation involves putting on earphones and listening to a series of sounds. The hearing specialist will play these sounds at different volumes and pitch levels to determine whether you have hearing loss, and if so the depth of the loss.
Another common hearing test involves listening to words in one ear and repeating them back to make sure you were able to interpret sounds correctly. Sometimes this test is intentionally done with background noise to see whether that affects your ability to hear. Tests are usually done in each ear separately to get a proper measurement for each side.
What Do Hearing Test Results Mean?
Ultimately, a standard hearing test determines whether a person has hearing loss and the extent of it. Adults with minor hearing loss, 25 decibels or less, are considered to have normal hearing. From there, hearing specialists gauge hearing loss as:
- Moderate to severe
The level of impairment is based on the decibel level of the hearing loss.
What Else Do Hearing Tests Measure?
Other hearing tests can measure the thresholds of air and bone conduction, viability of the structures in the middle ear like the eardrum, type of hearing loss, and a person’s ability to hear clearly when background noise is present.
But hearing tests can also reveal other health issues such as:
- Heart and circulation issues. The inner ear has one blood vessel, which makes it more sensitive to changes in blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. Research shows that people with RA are as much as 300 percent more likely to have hearing loss.
- Diabetes. It’s thought that high levels of sugar in the blood can damage blood vessels including the one that feeds the inner ear.
- Meniere’s disease and other issues with dizziness and vertigo.
- Paget’s disease, which can cause severe headaches and pain in the joints and bones.
- Otosclerosis, which if caught early can sometimes be reversed.
The hearing specialist will take all the information revealed by hearing tests and use it to determine whether you are suffering from:
- Age-related hearing loss
- Damage from exposure to loud noises, ototoxic chemicals or medications
- Abnormal bone growths
- Damage from chronic infections or disease
- Damage from trauma
- Another medical problem causing the hearing loss like high blood pressure
Once you understand why you have hearing loss, you can look for ways to manage it and to protect your overall health.
The hearing specialist will also examine the results of the test to determine risk factors caused by your hearing loss and create a preemptive plan to lower those risks.
What Are the Risk Factors of Ignoring Hearing Loss?
Medical science is starting to understand how hearing loss impacts a person’s health and quality of life. Researchers from Johns Hopkins monitored 636 individuals over 12 years. They found that those with hearing loss have an increased risk of dementia. The more significant the hearing loss, the higher the risk.
According to this study, a person with mild hearing loss has twice the risk of dementia. A moderate loss means three times the risk, and severe hearing impairment increases the risk by five.
There is evidence of social decline with hearing loss, as well. People who have trouble following conversations will avoid them. That can lead to more time alone and less time with family and friends.
A hearing test might explain a recent bout of fatigue, too. The brain works to interpret sound, so you understand what you hear. When there is hearing loss, it will work harder to detect sound and translate it. That robs your other senses of energy and leaves you feeling tired all the time.
Finally, the National Council on Aging reports there is a clear correlation between hearing loss and depression, especially age-related hearing loss when it is left untreated.
Treating hearing loss, with hearing aids or other hearing technology, can eliminate or mitigate these risks, and a hearing test is the first step for proper treatment.
A professional hearing test is a pain-free and comfortable way to learn a lot about your hearing and your health, so why are you waiting to schedule yours?