If you live in the U.S., you’ve likely received regular hearing screenings since the day you were born. These routine hearing tests administered at the hospital, doctor’s office and through school systems are designed to detect hearing loss at an early age. Early detection prevents serious developmental struggles due to hearing impairments. However, once we reach adulthood, these screenings are not as mandatory, and our hearing health becomes our own responsibility. Some, but not all, medical doctors include a hearing screening during a routine check-up. Otherwise, we may no longer have our hearing screened on a regular basis unless we take the initiative.

How long has it been since your last hearing test? Do you know how often, as an adult, we should be getting our hearing checked? Here are the most common recommendations.

During your yearly physical

You should be getting a routine physical examination from your primary care physician on a yearly basis, and your hearing will probably be screened as part of the process. If you aren’t getting regular physicals, it’s something to consider.

If you’ve already had your hearing screened, received a hearing evaluation from an audiologist, and are diagnosed with hearing loss, a full hearing test should certainly be a part of your yearly routine.

If you experience changes in hearing

If at any time you suspect your hearing has changed, you can still request a hearing screening from your physician without a full physical. Other places you can find free hearing screenings are through community health organizations, fairs and even through a hearing care professional.

If your hearing trouble turns out to be unrelated to hearing loss, it may still be something like excess earwax buildup, an ear infection or another hearing-related issue that needs to be treated. It’s important to act immediately rather than put off your health and safety.

In the event your hearing screening indicates you are experiencing hearing loss, a full hearing test should be completed to determine the type, degree or cause of your hearing problems.

So how do you know your hearing has changed? After all, hearing loss tends to happen gradually later in life, and may not be detectable for years. This is where it’s important to take cues from how you’re responding to your environment and those around you. If you notice, any of the following, you should schedule a hearing screening:

  • Difficulty hearing conversation, especially with background noise
  • Frequently asking others to speak up or repeat themselves
  • Turning up the volume on the television and other sound devices
  • Ringing-in-your-ears sensation

If you have a record of healthy hearing, a screening may not be necessary every year, but it’s certainly a good preventative measure to take, especially with the tendency for age-related hearing loss to show up later in life. If you can’t remember the last time you had your hearing screened, now is a good time to do it.