March 1, 2011
New thinking on when to get a hearing test
Should you be tested for hearing loss? The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is wondering the same thing. The government-supported group, which develops recommendations on preventive health care, hasn’t issued new hearing-test recommendations since 1996, when it said that all adults 50 and over should get a hearing test from their doctor. The task force is now reconsidering that advice, starting with an article in this week’s issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Bottom line: Until the task force comes out with its new recommendations, it’s reasonable for most people to talk with a doctor about hearing loss starting at age 50 or so, especially if you have a condition that can contribute to hearing loss, such as diabetes or heart disease. But anyone who notices signs of possible hearing loss, such as tinnitus (prolonged ringing in the ears), or an extended period of hearing change should consult a doctor.
And if you do have hearing loss, it can make sense to get help. Hearing impairment can isolate you from family and friends, and lead to depression and other psychosocial problems. A hearing aid can improve your quality of life. If you’re thinking of trying one, use our hearing aid buying guide, which includes Ratings(available to subscribers), what to expect from an evaluation, a buying checklist, and a quiz to help you decide if you need a hearing aid. Also see our guide to protecting your ears from noise.
—Kevin McCarthy, associate editor