In the UK, most people would have had their first hearing test soon after birth. This test is called an automated otoacoustic emission test (AOAE) and has shown that one to two babies in every 1’000 are born with permanent hearing loss in one or both ears (NHS U.K). Finding hearing loss early ensures that these babies have a better chance of developing speech, language and communication skills. Children in the U.K also have their hearing tested at school.
For adults, there is no set timescale on how often you should have your hearing tested; however, if you experience any difficulties of hearing in one or both ears, it is recommended you have a hearing test. If you experience a rapid (within 30 days) or sudden (within 24 hours) hearing loss, you should seek immediate medical assistance as you may be able to prevent permanent hearing loss.
Hearing Test for Children
As we mentioned before, children have their hearing tested (AOAE) soon after they are born. The hearing screening will take place in the hospital before the baby is discharged, and, if the hearing fails in one ear or both, further testing will be scheduled.
The hearing may be assessed again at a review of your child’s health and development between the age of 9 months and two and half years.
At the age of 4 or 5 most children will have a hearing test at school.
Hearing Screening and Hearing Testing for Adults
A hearing screening takes around 15 minutes. A brief case history is taken and then your ear health should be examined (Otoscopy). After Otoscopy, if appropriate, a short hearing test will be performed; usually the key frequencies for speech (500Hz, 1KHz, 2KHz and 4KHz) will be tested. If your hearing results are within normal range and you are under 50 years of age you will be invited back three to five years later. If you are over 50 this may be reduced to every one or two years since the biggest cause of hearing loss is ageing.
If your hearing screening shows a hearing loss, a full hearing assessment may be conducted. This test will be completed over all the speech frequencies. A bone conduction test will also be completed to determine what type of hearing loss you have. You may also receive various speech tests to determine how the hearing loss is affecting your speech recognition.
Cost of Hearing Tests
You can receive a free test from the NHS; however, it may take a few weeks to get an appointment. Many hearing centres in the UK offer a free hearing screening. A full hearing assessment can also be received for free in some places including SoundHearing.org while others may charge (range £50-£200).