Should I Get My Hearing Checked?

Take this quiz to help you recognize the signs of age-related hearing loss and determine if you should consult an expert for help.

A smiling elderly woman receives an ear examination from a healthcare provider.

Updated on February 4, 2022.

Hearing loss is the third-leading chronic disability affecting adults in the United States, but it frequently goes unnoticed. In fact, the person with the hearing problem is often the last to realize it.

Although there may be some sounds in daily life you'd prefer to tune out (car alarms and infomercials, to name a few), there are likely many others you wouldn't want to miss, such as those that enable you to interact with your favorite people.

That's why, as you get older, it's important to be aware of how your hearing may change, how to assess your hearing accurately, and how to prevent and manage hearing loss. Doing so will help ensure that you stay connected to family and friends and continue to be fully engaged in your daily life.

A simple hearing self-assessment

You can give your hearing a quick check by answering the types of questions your healthcare provider (HCP) might ask if they were trying to determine if you have a problem. (If you normally wear a hearing aid, answer based on how you hear with the device in place.)

1. Do you find that family and friends seem to mumble so that you can't fully understand them?
2. Do you have a difficult time hearing people speak when there is a lot of background noise, such as the chatter of voices, traffic or outdoor noises, or the sound of music or TV?
3. Do you frequently ask people to repeat themselves?
4. Do people ever mention that you listen to the television with the volume really high?
5. Do you have trouble hearing people when you speak on the phone?
6. Is it difficult to hear when someone speaks softly or in a whisper?
7. Has anyone ever told you that you may have a hearing problem?

If you answered "Yes" to one or fewer questions: Due to the small number of positive responses you gave to these questions, your HCP might surmise that a hearing problem is unlikely, should they ask you similar questions.

If you answered "Yes" to two to four questions: Due to the number of positive responses you gave to these questions, your HCP might suspect there could be a problem with your hearing, should they ask you similar questions. Your answers suggest you might be experiencing a small to moderate degree of hearing loss.

If you answered "Yes" to five or more questions: Due to the number of positive responses you gave to these questions, your HCP might determine there is a strong possibility you could have a hearing problem, should they ask you similar questions. Your answers suggest you may have significant hearing issues. Make an appointment with an HCP to have your hearing evaluated.

Remember that your answers to these questions do not represent a clinically valid diagnosis and there are other questions your HCP might ask when assessing your symptoms.

Only a hearing specialist can make an accurate diagnosis after conducting an in-depth hearing evaluation. Specialists you might visit for a thorough exam include an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist (also called an otolaryngologist) or an otologist.

Why you might not notice hearing loss

People with mild hearing problems often fail to notice them, and even when they do notice them, most people wait several years before seeking help. During that time, isolation can slowly begin to envelop people as they miss out on more and more of the sounds, conversations, and noises of life in a world designed and optimized for people with normal hearing.

Although hearing is the quickest of the five senses—your ears need to work very fast to perceive and process tones, pitches, and volumes—the loss of this speedy sense usually happens quite slowly, causing hearing losses to go undetected. It may take decades for some people to notice the degree to which their hearing has been progressively compromised.

Other reasons people may overlook hearing lapses include:

  • Hearing loss is selective. Initially you may have difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds but still hear normally at lower pitches. That's why you might hear one person's voice better than another's or feel that some sounds get through while others don't. You could also have difficulty distinguishing only certain consonant sounds and blends, such as S or a soft C, F, CH, SH, or H.
  • You can't feel or see hearing loss. The good and bad news of typical hearing loss patterns is that they usually don't produce physical sensations, such as pain. Hearing loss doesn't hurt, which is good, but without pain signals, you may not be alarmed enough to do something about the hearing loss, which is bad because the hearing loss often goes unmanaged. People suffering from hearing loss, meanwhile, typically have no outward physical signs of the condition, making it easy for others to ignore.

If you or others in your life suspect you may have hearing loss, don’t ignore it or hope it will go away on its own. Consult with your HCP to learn more about your hearing and how to manage any loss you may be experiencing.

Article sources open article sources

Masterson EA, Bushnell PT, Themann CL, Morata TC. Hearing Impairment Among Noise-Exposed Workers — United States, 2003–2012. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:389–394.
UCSF Health. Hearing Loss Diagnosis. Accessed February 2, 2022.
Johns Hopkins Health. The Hidden Risks of Hearing Loss. Accessed February 2, 2022.
National Institute on Aging. Hearing Loss: A Common Problem for Older Adults. Content reviewed: November 20, 2018.

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