Audiology evaluations consist of a series of tests used to determine the type, degree and configuration of hearing loss. An audiologist will assess the results of each individual test in order to develop a treatment plan geared toward your unique hearing loss.
Who Should Be Given an Audiologic Evaluation?
An audiologic (or hearing) evaluation can benefit patients of all ages, even those who do not exhibit signs of hearing loss.
Hearing loss is a progressive condition that often develops slowly. Many people are not aware of a change in their hearing because they gradually adapt to the subtle changes in their hearing ability over time. Studies indicate that it takes seven years, on average, for a hearing impaired individual to seek treatment.
An audiologic evaluation should be the first course of action for anybody who even suspects a hearing loss. The sooner a diagnosis of hearing loss is made, the more successful treatment will be. Early detection means more options for the patient.
Many physicians urge making audiologic evaluations a routine part of your overall health care, much like regular vision exams and dental checkups. They are quick, painless and provide immediate results.
What Does Diagnostic Testing Entail?
A comprehensive audiologic evaluation consists of a series of individual diagnostic tests that measure different aspects of your hearing. Following a physical examination and a review of your medical history, you will be given any or all of the following tests:
Pure Tone Testing
Pure-tone testing (also known as pure tone audiometry) uses air conduction to measure your ability to hear sounds of various pitches and volumes. Utilizing headphones, you will be asked to identify a series of tones by raising a hand, pressing a button, or responding verbally.
The results are charted on an audiogram, a graph that shows the type, degree and configuration of your hearing loss by comparing pitch (frequency) with loudness (intensity). The pattern recorded will help your audiologist determine your hearing threshold.
Bone Conduction Testing
Bone conduction testing is another type of pure-tone test that measures the inner ear’s response to sound. If there is damage or a blockage in the outer or middle ear, bone conduction audiometry testing may be used.
Instead of sending the tones through the ear, this type of testing is able to bypass the outer and middle ear and send the tone directly to the inner ear. A small vibrator is placed behind the ear. The device sends out a vibration that passes through the skull bone to reach the inner ear.
If the results of this test are different than the air conduction test, your audiologist can use this information to determine whether you have a conductive or sensorineural hearing loss.
Speech (or word recognition) testing is used to measure your speech reception threshold (SRT), or the faintest speech you can understand 50 percent of the time. This is done to check the validity of the results of your pure tones. In addition, your ability to separate speech from background noise will be recorded.
During the word recognition test, the patient will hear words descending in loudness and is asked to repeat each word or take a guess if the word is hard to recognize. The SRT is recorded for each ear individually.
Once the SRT is recorded for each ear, the audiologist will present a list of recorded words at a louder presentation level, depending on the patient’s degree of hearing loss, configuration and sensitivity to loud sounds. The patient is asked to repeat back each word, taking a guess even if the word is hard to understand.
Speech testing may be administered in either a quiet or noisy environment; results are recorded on the audiogram for easy visual reference.
Tympanometry is a test of the middle ear used to detect fluid, wax buildup, eardrum perforations and tumors. It measures movement of the eardrum in response to air pressure; the results are recorded on a chart called a tympanogram.
Acoustic Reflex Testing
The acoustic reflex test measures involuntary muscle contractions of the middle ear, and is used to determine the location of your hearing problem (the ossicles, cochlea, auditory nerve, etc.) as well as the type of hearing loss.
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs)
Otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) are sounds generated by vibrations of the hair cells in the cochlea of the outer ear. OAE testing utilizes a tiny probe fitted with a microphone and speaker that is used to stimulate the cochlea and measure its response. Individuals with normal hearing will produce emissions; when a hearing loss exceeds 30-35 decibels, no sound will be produced.
This test helps determine if there is damage to the hair cells of the cochlea. OAE testing is often included in newborn hearing screening programs.
Call Allergy & ENT Associates at (629) 200-6342 for more information or to schedule an appointment.