Diagnostic Hearing Evaluation
At some point in our lives we will need to get a hearing evaluation test. All too often people see advertisements for free hearing screening. In this brief review, we want to educate our consumers on the various types of hearing evaluation and what the process involves. When going to a “hearing loss doctor”, you may learn that there are few different types of professionals. There is the surgical doctor, Ear Nose and Throat professional. You will see an MD following this person’s name indicating they have completed medical school. This type of professional is vital if there is a medical concern, such as an ear infection that requires antibiotics or something that requires surgical intervention such as a perforated eardrum or other middle ear related disorder. Another type of professional is a hearing aid dispenser. They will have HIS credentials following their name and indicates they work with hearing aids. The way they evaluate your hearing is for the purpose of a hearing aid sale and they have limited training in the hearing sciences (30 credits post high school). They are not allowed to diagnose or treat hearing losses without a referral to an Ear Nose and Throat doctor. Finally we have an audiologist. An audiologist is a licensed hearing health care professional who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss and balance disorders in adults and children. Audiologists have a doctoral degree and you will see AuD listed as their credentials.
Now that you know about the right type of hearing loss specialist for you, let’s look at different types of hearing tests.
A hearing screening is not the same as an audiological evaluation. It is a “pass” or “fail” type of task. You may be asked to simply respond “yes” to a sound that is presented. These sounds are presented at one hearing level and are designed to determine if you hear them within normal range or not. This type of task is not enough to determine the type or degree to hearing loss you may have. Its purpose is to determine if you have normal hearing or not. It usually consists of a series of beeps or tones at the limit of normal range to see if you are able to hear them. A common place to have this type of screening is at your general doctor’s office or a health fair setting.
A hearing evaluation (or hearing loss evaluation) is a comprehensive examination performed by a licensed audiologist which includes a series of tests following a full history intake. Your medical history plays a big role in your hearing health, and your audiologist will inquire about various conditions and medications that may have affected your hearing. Following review of your full case history and several types of hearing tests your audiogram evaluation will be explained to you. The goal is to find treatment and management for your communication needs.
To determine types of hearing loss audiogram, various types of tests will need to be administered the process may take up to 30 minutes:
- Air conduction: Headphone will be placed over the ears (depending on the anatomy of your ears, insert earphones may need to be used). The instruction form your audiologist will generally be to raise your hand for any sound you hear or you think you hear. The goal is to measure the softest sound you can hear.
- Pure tone bone conduction: This test uses a small behind the ear bypassess your outer and middle ear to measure the nerve more directly. Instruction is the same as in the air conduction test.
- Speech testing: You will be asked to repeat words that are recorded at various volumes into each and/or both of your ears. It is important to measure not only your audibility of sounds but the clarity of speech.
- Tympanometry — This test measures the movement of the eardrum and the ability of the middle ear to conduct sound to the inner ear.
- Acoustic Reflexes — In a normal ear, the stapedius muscle in the middle ear contracts in response to loud noises at about 70-100 dB (decibels).
- Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) — A probe in the ear canal measures echoes from the inner ear in response to sound. A normal cochlea creates its own sound in response to sound coming into the ear. If no response is observed, a hearing loss may be present.
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) — Electrodes are placed on your head to pick up the brain’s responses to sound directly. No voluntary response is necessary. It is used in adults for neurodiagnostic purposes. This means there was a difference in hearing between two ears during the hearing damage test.
With this information, we hope to give you a greater level of comfort in addressing your hearing health. Call Audiology Island and one of our knowledgeble audiologists will walk you through the process of hearing evaluation and explain your newly obtained baseline.
A hearing screening is simply a pass or fail test that gives an idea of whether there might be potentially a hearing problem. If you fail a hearing screening, a full audiological evaluation will be recommended. An evaluation will determine the type and the degree of hearing loss, and based on these results we will be able to give you the right recommendation of how to treat your hearing problem.
If you are suspecting that you or your loved one may have hearing loss, you are not alone. Hearing loss comes on gradually, and is often noticed first by people around you. On average it takes people seven to nine years to seek treatment. If you are noticing that people around you are mumbling, you are turning up the volume on TV, you are having difficulty hearing in noisy situations, don’t delay your treatment. Schedule an appointment for an audiological evaluation.
If you were diagnosed with hearing loss and decided not to proceed with the suggested amplification, due to you hearing loss, your brain (central auditory system) will not receive proper stimulation by the sound, it will receive distorted versions of the actual sound which will result in the loss of speech discrimination abiity. Many studies have shown that if the brain is not stimulated enough by the sound, the potential to “forget” how to hear is high and is closely related to the length of time the brain goes without stimulation.
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Hearing loss is not just an ailment of old age. It can strike at any time and any age, even childhood. Many people are aware that their hearing has deteriorated but are reluctant to seek help. Perhaps they don’t want to acknowledge the problem, are embarrassed by what they see as a weakness, or believe that they can “get by” without using a hearing aid. And, unfortunately, too many wait years, even decades, before scheduling an audiological evaluation and getting treatment. In fact, those who have difficulty hearing can experience such distorted and incomplete communication that it seriously impacts their professional and personal lives, at times leading to isolation and withdrawal. If you think you or a loved one suffers from hearing loss, don’t delay another day. Visit us at Audiology Island and our hearing loss doctor will help you take the first step toward a world of better hearing.