The first step in hearing health care is to determine if hearing loss is affecting you or your child. Testing may include a hearing screening or a comprehensive audiologic evaluation.
A hearing screening will show if hearing loss is ruled out or if further testing is needed. Hearing screenings are typically pass/fail and do not indicate specific hearing thresholds.
The most common testing is a comprehensive audiologic evaluation. This testing is done to determine if a hearing loss is present, and if so, to detail the type and severity of the hearing loss. It also may provide insight into the cause of the hearing loss as well as provide guidance for the audiologist in making appropriate treatment recommendations. It is important that this testing is completed by an audiologist to get the most accurate results. Test results and interpretations are then sent to your primary care physician as part of your medical record.
What Tests Will Be Done?
The specific tests done during the evaluation will depend on the patient’s age, and what is known already about their hearing status. These various tests will determine the degree of hearing loss, the type of hearing loss, and the conditions of the ear canal and middle ear. The audiologist will also determine if the hearing loss is conductive (middle or outer ear problem) or sensorineural (inner ear problem or central processing difficulty of the brain).
A diagnostic audiologic evaluation includes pure-tone testing, bone-conduction testing, and speech testing.
Pure-tone Air and Bone Conduction Testing
Pure-tone air conduction testing determines the quietest tones that a person can hear at different frequencies, both low and high. Bone conduction testing is similar to pure-tone air conduction testing. A different type of headphone is used during bone conduction testing, and the results help the specialist determine if the hearing loss is originating from the outer/middle ear or from the inner ear.
A speech reception threshold (SRT) test is often used with older children and adults to confirm the results of a pure-tone test. This test determines the lowest level at which the patient can recognize words or speech stimuli.
The audiologist will also perform otoscopy (examining the ear canal) and tympanometry (test of the middle ear) to determine the health of the ear canal and the middle ear.
It is important to have a diagnostic audiologic evaluation whenever a hearing loss is suspected. It is the first step in identifying hearing loss and dealing with it to improve quality of life.
Along with the evaluation, you should expect to have time to review the results with the audiologist. She can interpret the tests for you, answer your questions, provide you with information and referrals as needed, as well as begin planning for treatment, if indicated.
Audiologists are specialists in hearing and hearing rehabilitation. Never hesitate to ask your audiologist for clarification or further information on anything you do not understand.
What Can I Expect During a Diagnostic Audiologic Evaluation?
The evaluation will probably last about 20 minutes in length. You should also allow for time for discussion with the audiologist to review test results, and ask questions.
If the determination is made that you need hearing aids, allow for sufficient time to discuss your options. There are many factors that determine what is your individual solution.
It is recommended that you bring a family member with you to the evaluation appointment. It helps to have another supportive person at the appointment to help you understand the information and recommendations.
Before your appointment, a complete medical history will be completed and the audiologist will want to hear about any complaints you have about your hearing. He or she will pay special attention to any concerns you have about exposure to noise, tinnitus, and balance problems. Make sure that you take a full list of any medications and supplements you are taking with you to your appointment.
The diagnostic audiologic evaluation is a good chance to establish a relationship with your audiologist. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your audiologist has been highly trained to give you accurate and thorough explanations. You will want to be clear on any information you receive so that you can be an active participant in finding hearing solutions that work best for you and your lifestyle.