Hearing loss is a common concern as we age. According to the National Institute on Aging, roughly one-third of people between the ages of 65 and 74 have some form of hearing loss, yet being able to communicate effectively with people around you is an essential element of a happy retirement.
When is the right time to schedule a hearing loss test or screening for yourself? Should you test on a regular basis, or wait until you notice a problem? And does Medicare cover hearing loss tests?
Here are a few considerations to help you determine whether you need a hearing loss test and information on how to take the next steps if you believe a test could be beneficial to you.
Determine Whether You Are a Good Candidate for a Screening
In general, you don't need to schedule a hearing test unless you notice a change in your hearing. However, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) recommends a hearing screening every three years for adults over 50.
A hearing screening is different from a test: A screening is a quick pass/fail test, whereas a hearing test (or hearing evaluation) is more thorough, notes ASHA. Your hearing screening can determine whether you need a more in-depth hearing loss test.
Watch for Common Signs of Hearing Loss
You may not notice right away if your hearing is on the decline. There are some common signs to watch for, including struggling to hear people on the phone or regularly turning up the volume on the TV or radio. If you or someone close to you notices a pattern that could indicate loss of hearing, schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine whether a hearing test is in order.
Consider How Your Lifestyle May Affect Your Hearing
Exposure to loud noises can cause both temporary and permanent hearing loss, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you spent years working on construction sites, playing or listening to live music, or working in a busy restaurant, it could impact your hearing later in life. If you suspect that you might be experiencing hearing loss due to your occupation or some other element of your lifestyle, make an appointment with your doctor.
Start With Your PCP and Insurance Coverage
Your first step toward evaluating any potential hearing loss is to make an appointment with your primary care provider (PCP). They can help rule out causes like earwax or an ear infection and then refer you to a specialist, if needed.
A specialist could be an audiologist, an otolaryngologist or another ear specialist. They may order a hearing loss test to assess the extent of any hearing loss. A typical test involves responding to sounds that you hear through headphones, but there are different types of tests, and your doctor can let you know exactly what to expect.
As long as the test is ordered by your doctor, Medicare Part B will cover a diagnostic hearing exam. Check your plan's details to confirm how much you might owe toward a copayment or deductible. Also, keep in mind that Medicare, Medigap and many other types of insurance don't cover the cost of hearing aids.
Acknowledging that you may be experiencing changes in your hearing can be difficult. Some people may be resistant to wearing a hearing aid, but taking the first step and seeing your doctor can help you make informed decisions around your hearing that could contribute substantially to your quality of life in retirement.