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Understanding the Value of Baseline Hearing Tests

People getting a hearing test are often asked if there has been a change in their hearing. Some want to know how much their hearing has diminished through the years. Others ask to have a comparison made from the test and ask if their hearing is likely to change significantly. These are important concerns; however, let’s look at a missing component.

Why Baseline Tests are Important

Hearing, as with any function of our body, will change or fluctuate through time. The bloodwork you had to monitor your insulin or thyroid function last year will not be suitable to use this year. The same goes with vision testing. You need a current vision examination to correctly order glasses. Hearing is no different. Hearing loss can gradually creep up on people and without proper, testing it may go untreated. A baseline hearing test gives the patient and audiologist a starting point or reference. This helps with short-term and long-term planning. The baseline hearing test is recommended before you start experiencing hearing difficulty so the audiologist can have a good grasp of how you functioned before noticing a decline in hearing.


Follow Up Testing

Once you have a through baseline hearing test, it is time to decide how often you want to have monitoring tests completed. Your audiologist will be able to make a recommendation. My recommendation is different depending on what the individual is experiencing. If someone has normal hearing and is not currently having difficulty hearing, I might recommend a hearing test every two to three years. If an individual is struggling to hear in some situations, I would recommend a hearing test once a year. Most insurance policies will pay for testing at least once a year. If someone has bouts of significant changes in hearing, I recommend they call and schedule a test while the hearing is acting up! We need to document what is going on while it occurs to better diagnose what or where the problem is.

Who Needs a Baseline Test?

Hearing testing can be completed on all age groups. A one-year-old or even a newborn can have a hearing test. We normally recommend a hearing test on children who are not speaking at the level expected for their age. Another time to request a hearing test would be if a child has chronic middle ear infections. Hearing is important to learn to speak and function within a family. Once a child enters school, the school will usually offer hearing screenings when children are in their elementary years. If a child does not pass a school screening, it is important that the parents follow the school’s recommendations for attention to the hearing. Once a child reaches high school, it is recommended that they have one test prior to leaving school. This would be the hearing test as the individual goes out into the world and will serve as the baseline for future testing. Adults can ask their primary care doctor to order a hearing test to safely store in their medical records should it be needed at a later time.

Why Would Hearing Change?

Traditionally, when a person gets a hearing test, he or she usually wants counsel on management strategies and hearing health. If the individual has not had a test in three or more years, it is difficult to offer a comparison of change in hearing and recommend long-term solutions. Hearing changes at different rates for every individual and the best person to compare your hearing against is you!

If you become ill and need strong medications, you may suffer a change in hearing. If you have whiplash or a head injury, you may notice a change in hearing. Head injuries may occur after falling off a horse, getting hit with a bat, slipping on ice or a motor vehicle accident, to name a few causes. Perhaps you fly somewhere and when you land your hearing is not as sharp and clear and it just doesn’t seem to recover. Hearing change may come after being exposed to a loud noise. It can happen as the result of attending a concert, going on a hunting trip or being near a child who is playfully blowing a horn. I have seen people who woke up one day and one of their ears was completely stopped up. The availability of a baseline hearing test will help your audiologist and physician determine the type and degree of change you suffered and offer the best management options. FBN

By Karon Lynn, Au.D.

Trinity Hearing Center is located at 1330 N. Rim Dr., Suite B in Flagstaff. For more information, visit TrinityHearing.net.


Karon Lynn is a doctor of audiology with 30 years of experience working with hearing impaired individuals. Dr. Lynn may be reached at 928-522-0500 or at audio@trinityhearing.net.

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