The Sydney Morning Herald has an interesting article today called "MP3-hammered hearing put to the test." In it, Joshua Jennings visits a Bay Audio store, one of several in Australia that have walk-in hearing tests. As he explains in the article, "You can check your hearing at its stores free; you don't need to make an appointment and there are branches in shopping centres (Forest Hill Chase, Frankston's Bayside and Southland), so you can tie your visit in with whatever other business you have next time you're there."
The interface for the hearing test looks pretty slick, with a flat-screen touchscreen monitor and onscreen instructions. At the end of the test the results are printed out for you and you have the option to come in for further diagnosis by Bay Audio.
I really like the idea of an audiology company having a set-up like this, and wish there were something like it in the United States (there may well be; I'm not sure). It seems like it would be much easier to convince someone you're concerned about to just pop in to the location, while you're on a trip to the mall. It would also be pretty neat to show other people what a basic hearing test is like, if they've never experienced one, and to allay any fears they may have.
One interesting mention in the article is of fears of hearing loss due to loud mp3 players and headphones. There's been a lot of stuff lately about the European Union planning to limit the decibel level of music players. On the one hand, it's anybody's right to listen to music as they please. On the other, nobody needs to listen to music over 85 DB - the noise level of a busy street - and prolonged exposure to that decibel level can and does affect hearing.
I know it's because I have a personal connection to hearing loss (though mine wasn't caused by noise exposure), but to be honest: earbuds and other types of headphones that fit right in the ear freak me out. A lot. I may listen to my radio relatively loud in the car, but that noise isn't jammed up right against my eardrum. Those people that have earbuds in their ears, blasting sound in their ear canal 24/7? I hope they enjoy a $6,000 pair of hearing aids in a few years.