Hearing & Balance Doctors
Comprehensive Hearing Assessments
Better Hearing Care Begins with an Accurate Hearing Assessment
In spite of the fact that hearing loss is the third most common physical health condition among individuals in the US, many go about their daily lives without realizing that they have a problem.
The reason behind this is similar to the process of growing or aging, which comes on gradually, making it unnoticeable from one day to the next.
Unlike aging, there is no way for you to compare how well you could hear a few years ago to how you can hear today.
However, like aging, the process of losing your hearing is irreversible. Recent protocols requiring everyone to wear face masks have exposed hearing loss for a number of individuals who struggle to hear what others are saying without the assistance of visual cues. If you or someone you love has begun to struggle with understanding what others are saying, it is time to consider a hearing test.
Hearing tests provide not only diagnostic information regarding the level of hearing loss you are experiencing, but they are also the framework for providing customized hearing care designed to treat your specific needs.
What Will Happen During Your Hearing Assessment
One reason your parent or spouse might have avoided having a hearing test until now might come from not knowing what to expect. You can rest assured that hearing tests are non-intrusive, not painful, and take about 30 minutes to complete. A hearing assessment can be broken into four parts.
1. Initial Consultation
Your initial consultation includes a conversation about questions and concerns you or your loved ones might have regarding hearing loss and treatment. It will also include a discussion about your family history, medications you take, your occupation, and hobbies and activities you enjoy. This conversation provides your audiologist with information regarding various environmental, genetic, medical, and lifestyle activities as potential causes of hearing loss. Sometimes it is helpful to bring someone who is very well acquainted with you for your initial consultation in order to help fill in information you might leave out.
2. Physical Examination of Your Ears
With sufficient background information, your audiologist will begin your testing with a physical examination of your ears using an otoscope. An otoscope is little more than a magnifying glass with a tapered tip and a tiny light. It allows your audiologist the ability to identify inflammation, growths, or any tumors obstructing the ear canal as well as wax, bugs, and other obstructions that reduce the capacity of your ears to conduct sound to the middle and inner ear.
3. Hearing Tests
After a physical examination of your ears, you will be placed in a soundproof booth or room where a set of headphones will be placed on your head for the first series of tests. This is when your audiologist will conduct various tests such as:
- Pure-tone test
- Bone conduction test
- Speech recognition test
- Acoustic-reflex test
In cases where your audiologist needs to further identify or isolate the cause of your hearing loss, other tests might be included in the assessment.
4. Discussion of Results
With all of the information gathered through testing, your audiologist will bring you back to the office in order to discuss the results. You will learn the extent of your hearing loss, its likely cause, and the treatment options available for your specific condition. Your input is a critical part of creating a comprehensive hearing care plan designed to meet your hearing needs, but it will also include your personal preferences and lifestyle concerns.
Because hearing aids are among the best treatment options for certain types of permanent hearing loss, the discussion may include the process of choosing and fitting you with a hearing instrument. However, medications, minor outpatient procedures, tinnitus management, changes to your prescription medications, or a referral to another specialist might also be among the best solutions for treating your hearing loss. If your audiologist does not identify hearing loss during testing, the discussion might include recommendations for hearing protection to be used during certain activities along with preventative measures to prevent future damage.
Schedule Your Hearing Assessment
Types Of Hearing Tests And What They Do
There are a variety of tests used in a comprehensive hearing assessment. Each plays a role in identifying a specific element of your hearing loss, providing your audiologist with the necessary information to treat your specific condition.
Pure-tone testing, also known as air conduction testing or a “hearing test,” transmits sounds from a pair of earphones through your outer and middle ear. Audiologists are able to test one ear at a time or both at the same time to identify hearing loss issues. This test establishes the quietest sound you can hear at different pitches or frequencies, or your hearing thresholds.
Bone Conduction Testing
A second test used by your audiologist is a bone conduction test. Using a different type of headset, known as a bone vibrator, sounds are transmitted directly to the inner ear through bone structures, bypassing the outer and middle ear. If you can better hear the tones using this test, the cause of your hearing loss is located in the outer or middle ear, indicating a conductive hearing loss. Sounds heard equally using pure-tone and bone conduction tests indicate a sensorineural hearing loss..
Your audiologist will also conduct a speech test, which uses spoken words in place of tones. This test provides a more realistic analysis of how your hearing capacity works in the real world. During this test, words will be spoken to you along with the addition of various environmental conditions and background noises from silent to extremely loud. You will repeat the words you hear, indicating your ability to discriminate between various spoken tones and words.
Acoustic-Reflex or Tympanometry Testing
A tympanometry measures the movement (reflex) of the eardrum as it responds to a transmitted sound as various pressure changes are applied. Acoustic-reflex testing helps to isolate problems related to your eardrum (tympanic membrane) and other middle ear structures.
Some cases require additional testing to identify the underlying cause of your hearing loss. Your audiologist might choose to conduct an otoacoustic emissions (OAE) test to evaluate the function of the cochlea. With normal or near-normal hearing, OAEs are present. However, if there are cochlea issues, then they are not. Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) is another test your audiologist might consider. ABR measures hearing sensitivity and evaluates the efficiency of the neural pathways in the process of transmitting sound within the brainstem, which helps to rule out auditory-neurological problems.
Schedule Your Hearing Assessment
The first vital step toward regaining a rewarding lifestyle and reconnecting with loved ones is a comprehensive hearing assessment.
If you or a loved one are not hearing as well as you used to, it is time to schedule a hearing assessment to learn why you’re struggling and what can be done