When is the last time you had a hearing test? For many of us, the answer is years and years ago! If you haven’t had a hearing test in quite a while, it’s time to think about scheduling one with an audiologist. While it’s a bit disconcerting to consider the possibility of hearing aids, it’s best to catch hearing loss early. Here are a few questions and answers about hearing tests.

1. Why should I have a hearing test?

Many people have some hearing loss and don’t even know it! Hearing loss affects one in five people over 12 years of age. Hearing loss often is due to exposure to loud noises but also may indicate other health issues, including diabetes or heart problems. A hearing test also allows your audiologist to set a baseline – something against which to measure future test results. If you’ve noticed a decline in your hearing, you should have a hearing test, especially if you’re in your 50s or 60s and haven’t had one in years. Hearing tests are painless and often are at least partially covered by insurance.

2. What happens at a hearing test?

A hearing check-up is comprehensive and involves an examination of your ears followed by several sound tests. The audiologist checks out your ear canal and eardrum with an otoscope to look for any physical issues. These could involve excess earwax, an infection, an injury to the eardrum or other problems. After that exam comes the hearing tests. First, is usually a pure-tone test – it determines how well you hear volume and sound frequency. You’ll listen to tones at different volumes and pitches and tell the audiologist in which ear you hear them. Next, you will have a speech test. In this exam, you listen to words that are whispered or spoken softly. When you hear the word, you repeat it back to the tester. Other tests may be performed as well. Your audiologist assesses the test results and reviews them with you.

3. Why should I see an audiologist for a hearing test?

An audiologist is a professional who does much more than administer hearing tests. Audiologists diagnose and treat several hearing loss issues, including tinnitus (ringing in the ears), balance disorders, infections, earwax removal and auditory nerve damage. Audiologists specialize in evaluating hearing in infants, children and adults. They are licensed by the state and hold a Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.), a Doctor of Philosophy in Audiology (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Science in Audiology (Sc.D). Seeing an audiologist ensures a comprehensive exam to determine the cause of any hearing loss and how best to treat it.

It’s easy to overlook your hearing when it comes to health exams. When you think about it, your hearing is just as important as your vision, your teeth and overall wellbeing. These questions and answers about hearing tests hopefully provided more information to help you determine if it’s time for you to see an audiologist the have your hearing checked.