Hearing loss affects an estimated 29 million people in the United States. We recommend that everyone over the age of 40 get a baseline hearing test and then repeat testing once a year to monitor for changes. Testing may vary slightly depending on patient.
- It is important to start with a complete medical history as it relates to the ears and hearing.
- Is the hearing difficulty gradual or sudden?
- Do you have difficulty in one or both ears?
- Do you have tinnitus, vertigo, ear infections, or draining ears?
- What types of medication are you on?
- Do you have any other medical conditions: diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure?
- Have you worked around noise or do you shoot firearms?
- 2. The next step is otoscopy, which is examining the ear canal and eardrum to determine if there is any blockage that would interfere with the hearing test.
- 3. If the canal is clear, tympanometry and acoustic reflexes can be performed. Tympanometry measures the pressure behind the ear drum and lets us know how well the ear drum is moving. Acoustic reflexes are used as a screening test to analyze nerves of the ear, brainstem, and face.
- 4. Tone Testing is where patient responses are recorded. Patients are asked to respond by raising your hand or saying “I hear it” when you first hear a soft distant beeping sound. The purpose is to find the softest level a patient can hear over a broad frequency range of different sounds. This testing is completed by using small foam earphones gently placed at the edge of the ear canal; this is called air conduction. Bone conduction testing follows the same procedure only a headband is placed behind the patient’s ear for sound transmission. Comparing these two pathways (air and bone conduction) will allow your audiologist to diagnosis the type of hearing loss you may have.
- This is necessary because for certain types of hearing loss, medical intervention from a physician may be able to improve the hearing.
- 5. The final component of the hearing evaluation is speech testing, where the patient is asked to repeat back words or sentences that they hear. Speech testing in quiet environments and in simulated background noise can give your audiologist an idea of how your ears and brain are currently processing speech sounds. The most common complaint among patients is that they can hear what their family or friends say, but cannot always understand what is being said.
After testing is completed you will receive a print out of the results as well as counseling on the results, what they mean, and what is recommended for a next step.