Hearing loss occurs when there is damage to your ear that causes you to be partially or completely unable to hear. It is normal for older adults to experience problems with hearing; however, it is also possible for hearing loss to begin as early as age 20. The earlier that hearing loss is detected, the better your doctor will be able to manage the condition and prevent further hearing loss from developing in the future.
The problem is that since hearing loss occurs so gradually, sometimes you are not aware of the signs and symptoms in yourself. Therefore, it can be useful to know when it is a good idea to get your hearing checked during a general screening.
Exposure to Loud Noises
One reason to have your hearing tested is if you have consistent, long-term exposure to loud noises due to occupational or recreational reasons. If you are around very loud noises on a daily basis, it is always a good idea to have your hearing tested at least once a year. Some occupations and recreations that are associated with dangerously loud noises include:
- Factory work
- Using firearms
- Being around jet engines
- Loud music
- Using a chainsaw
You can access a list of sounds and their decibel levels on the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Noises between 30 and 80 decibels are generally considered safe, while 80 to 110 decibels is entering the risk range, and 120 decibels and higher is considered the injury range. There are also maximum noise levels allowed by law for jobs provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Taking Certain Medications
If you are taking certain medications and begin to experience any of the symptoms of hearing loss, you should probably get your hearing checked to make sure there is not any permanent damage. Some medications can cause temporary hearing loss or ringing in the ears, while others can lead to permanent hearing loss. Some medications associated with hearing loss include:
- Chemotherapy medications
- High doses of aspirin
- Pain relievers
- Antimalarial drugs
- Loop diuretics
Some Illnesses or Diseases
There are also some conditions that can lead to damage of the cochlea and therefore result in hearing loss. For example, meningitis causes swelling of the brain and spinal cord and could potentially cause permanent hearing loss. Other conditions that cause a very high fever may also lead to hearing loss as well. See your doctor immediately if you begin to experience any symptoms.
Being Over the Age of 55
Additionally, it is never a bad idea for adults who are over the age of 55 to begin having their hearing tested annually, even if you feel like you are not experiencing any symptoms. Catching hearing loss in the earliest stages possible helps your doctor to address and manage your condition in the most efficient way possible.