A Hearing Exam Should Be Part of Your Yearly Physical

As time marches on and one year evolves into the next, every one of us wishes to return to the era of how things used to be. To turn back the clock when we were younger is our dream.

The major concern for most people is our general health as we age. What can we do to maintain or improve ourselves regarding the issues that many face each day?

In the June 2022 issue of Consumer Reports, an article delves into the details of boosting your brain power at any age. The subject matter discusses a variety of aspects we can control. These include blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, sleep, medication review, depression, anxiety, smoking, junk food, alcohol, air pollution, flavonoids, supplements, diet, exercise, learning, and social activity. These factors are responsible for 40% of all dementia cases.

The second item on their list to be addressed is your hearing.

In 2018, an analysis of 36 studies in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery showed there is an increased risk of cognitive decline due to age-related hearing loss. Johns Hopkins University, UC Davis, and the University of Oregon have been performing research and documenting the results which show people even with a mild untreated hearing loss begin venturing down the road of dementia.

I have interacted with many older people whom are more concerned about their cholesterol results from a free screening at a senior citizen health fair than anything else which may be an assault upon their ability to achieve and sustain good health in the long run. Good health is a package deal which encompasses a broad range of things to be addressed.

With respect to hearing, we are looking at the quality of life in conjunction with the list in the Consumer Reports article. Each year you should get a complete physical from your family physician. This includes a blood panel, physical examination, removal of cerumen (earwax) if present, X-rays, review of current concerns and health history, and effectiveness and possible change in medications as required. Included with this process is seeing a private practice audiologist for a complete audiological evaluation.

The audiologist is a doctor.

They will take a case history which includes questions regarding your hearing health history, complaints, medication review, current hearing difficulty concerns, and specific problems encountered with your hearing. Next, an otoscopic inspection will allow a look into both ear canals to rule out any wax or abnormalities. Testing includes pure tone and speech audiometry, tone decay test, tympanometry, acoustic stapedial reflex testing, otoacoustic emissions testing, and if tinnitus is noted, a tinnitus evaluation. These procedures are noninvasive and usually take about thirty minutes. At the conclusion of the evaluation, the doctor will review the test results, compare the outcome to the case history information, make recommendations, and answer your questions.

 If amplification (hearing aids) is recommended, get them. This point is noted in the Consumer Reports article. As stated previously from years of research, even a mild untreated loss starts the person down the road of dementia. Once the amplification is selected and ordered, your fitting appointment would be scheduled within about two weeks. At this time, the digital amplification will be programmed to your loss, counseling and aural rehabilitation will be completed, and a follow-up appointment will be scheduled for adjustments and address receptive communication issues. It is best to have a family member or trusted friend to support you in this endeavor and bring a third-party observation to ensure success.

Change is tough for a lot of people. We get used to what and how we do things. However, change is required in many areas so we may improve our quality of life and boost our brain against dementia. This is really our ticket on the last train home tonight to get us closer to how we wish to have our lives in the long run.