Can you hear spring?
Birds singing, rain falling and the wind rustling the new leaves on the trees…
If you can’t hear those sounds, you may have hearing loss, and that means you’re missing out on the sounds of spring.
But how do you know if you’re missing out?
After all, the last time you had your hearing checked might have been in the nurse’s office in grade school, or maybe it was a screening that was conducted at work? In either case, it’s a good idea to have a comprehensive hearing evaluation as you get older.
Your first hearing evaluation becomes your baseline and is important even if you don’t have hearing loss. This evaluation tells an audiologist how well you are hearing at a particular point in time. If your hearing is normal, it becomes the standard against which future results are compared and helps your audiologist get a better picture of your hearing loss so that you can be treated appropriately, if needed.
When should you have your hearing evaluated?
That’s a question that’s up for debate. If you aren’t experiencing any problems hearing, a baseline hearing evaluation is recommended at least once in your adult life between the ages of 21 and 60. If you haven’t had a baseline exam by age 60, you should consider getting one. Age-related hearing loss is the most common cause of hearing loss.
Be sure the evaluation is thorough and isn’t just a brief screening. Screenings are often performed at public events and health fairs for free or for very low cost, but they’re just that—screenings. They may only take a few minutes and aren’t comprehensive audiological evaluations in an office using sophisticated equipment, including an audiogram. A comprehensive evaluation typically takes 60 to 90 minutes.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, an audiogram is a graph showing the results of a pure-tone hearing test. It shows how loud sounds need to be at different frequencies for you to hear them. The audiogram shows the type, degree, and configuration of hearing loss.
When you hear a sound during a hearing test, you raise your hand or push a button. The audiologist makes a note of how loud the sound was at each frequency. At the end of testing, the audiogram can show what you heard.
Each line that runs from left to right shows a frequency in Hertz, or Hz. The lowest pitches are on the left side and the highest pitches are on the right side. The common frequencies tested are 125 Hz, 250 Hz, 500 Hz, 1000 Hz, 2000 Hz, 3000Hz, 4000 Hz, and 8000 Hz.
- Examples of “low-frequency” sounds are a rumble of thunder, a tuba, and sounds like the “oo” in “who.”
- Examples of “high-frequency” sounds are a bird chirping, a whistle, and the “s” sound in “sun.”
Each line from top to bottom shows how loud the sound is in decibels, or dB. Lines at the top of the chart are for soft sounds. Lines at the bottom of the chart are for loud sounds.
- Examples of soft sounds are a clock ticking, a person whispering, and leaves rustling.
- Examples of loud sounds are a lawnmower, a car horn, and a rock concert.
The audiogram shows the pattern of your hearing loss. It also shows how severe it is, called the degree of hearing loss. For example, your hearing might be normal for low pitches but not for high pitches. In this case, you might hear speech, but it might not sound clear. If you have hearing loss at all pitches, you might have problems hearing any speech.
The audiologist marks what you hear in your right ear with a red O. What you hear in your left ear gets a blue X. If the Xs and Os are at the top of the graph, your hearing is normal. You have a hearing loss if the Xs and Os are farther down the graph.
A comprehensive audiological evaluation includes an audiogram as well as other important tests such as air and bone conduction, speech testing such as word clarity. Additional tests of middle ear and inner ear function can also be performed.
If your audiologist determines you don’t have any hearing loss, or your hearing loss is not significant, you may need to be tested again for two to three years unless your symptoms change. At that point, having this baseline hearing evaluation can provide the audiologist with valuable information, telling them how much your hearing has changed, if any, since the baseline exam.
If you can’t “hear” those birds chirping or the wind blowing and you haven’t had a baseline hearing evaluation, spring might be a good time to have one.
Associated Audiologists not only offers comprehensive hearing evaluations at each of its seven area clinics using state-of-the-art technology, but its doctoral-level audiologists can recommend hearing aids to best fit your needs, budget and lifestyle.