If you’re having trouble hearing, make a call for a telephone test

You’re having trouble understanding conversations, but when was the last time you had a hearing test? If you are one of the estimated 48 million Americans with impaired hearing, chances are you are often frustrated and embarrassed but suffering in silence, according to a recent story on AARP.org.

“Statistics show that people with hearing loss wait an average of five to seven years before getting help,” says Neil DiSarno, chief staff officer for audiology for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association based in Rockville, Md. Denial is a big factor in the delay, while some people may suspect they have hearing loss but not think it’s advanced enough to be evaluated.

There are alternatives, but if you are one of these procrastinators, one option may be the telephone-based National Hearing Test. Modeled on a test designed in the Netherlands, the National Hearing Test was developed by Communication Disorders Technology (CDT) in Bloomington, Ind., in conjunction with Indiana University and the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, with funding from the National Institutes of Health. It became available in the U.S. in 2014.

“The National Hearing Test is making the public more aware that there is an inexpensive, fast and scientifically proven screening test for hearing loss,” DiSarno says in the AARP story.

The test mimics one of the most challenging real-life situations: trying to hear in the midst of noise, notes James Miller, principal scientist at CDT and emeritus director of research at the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis. Think family dinners, cocktail parties and crowded restaurants.

It effectively detects the changes in the inner ear caused by age or exposure to noise — the two most common causes of hearing loss. But the test has limits: The NHT website cautions it will not detect hearing problems caused by damage to the ear canal or the middle ear, or rare conditions caused by a tumor.

To access the test, log on to the National Hearing Test website, pay a $5 charge and receive a code that activates the test after calling the toll-free National Hearing Test number, 800-299-9195.