Although hearing loss can occur at any age and for many reasons including extended exposure to loud noises and hereditary factors, people commonly lose their hearing gradually as they age. According to Statistics Canada, 47% of adults age 60 to 79 experience hearing loss compared to 16% of adults aged 40 to 59 and 7% of 19-39 year olds.
Age-related hearing loss normally affects both ears and occurs due to changes in the structure of your inner ear, but structural changes can also occur in the middle ear, in nerve pathways from your ear to your brain, or even due to certain medical conditions and/or medications.
The National Campaign for Better Hearing encourages everyone to get a baseline hearing test at 60 years of age, but even if you aren’t 60 years or older or suffering from hearing loss, this initial test can serve as a useful reference for your hearing health in the future. Your first hearing test will compare your hearing to average hearing levels from people your age to determine your hearing loss. Once you’ve taken your first test, your audiologist can reference your previous results to give you a more specific and personalized assessment of your hearing health.
After this test, if you are 60 years of age or older, you should get your hearing tested annually. Age-related hearing loss is so gradual that it is easy to overlook as it gets progressively worse. The earlier hearing loss is detected, the sooner you can begin to improve your quality of life.
Hearing testing is provided at birth, and some grade schools also provide hearing tests for their students, but if you suspect that you may have hearing loss, you should arrange to have your hearing tested no matter your age. Hearing loss among young people has increased significantly since the use of earphones, which send music, (that is often too loud!) directly into the ear.
In summary, an initial test and a follow up every year can help you stay on top of your hearing health. Remember, the Campaign for Better Hearing recommends you at least test your ears at 60 years, whether you notice you have a hearing problem or not! Happy hearing!