Diagnostic Hearing Evaluations
A diagnostic hearing evaluation is the first step in determining your hearing capability. Not all patients who experience hearing loss are aware of their condition. Symptoms tend to develop gradually over an extended period of time. If you have a hearing loss, it will detail the extent, type, and specifics of your particular hearing loss. The diagnostic hearing evaluation will be performed by one of our certified audiologist, in his or her office, using equipment called an audiometer.
The diagnostic hearing evaluation consists of a variety of tests to determine the unique aspects of your hearing loss, as well as the level at which you can detect and understand speech. This evaluation can be conducted on people of any age, from newborn infants to seniors.
A diagnostic hearing evaluation may include the following tests:
- 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 audiologist determine if the hearing loss is originating from the outer/middle ear or from the inner ear.
- Speech Testing – Speech testing is used to measure your speech reception and word recognition abilities. During this test, you are asked to repeat words and phrases delivered at normal conversational levels. Testing may be performed in quiet or noisy backgrounds.
- Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Testing – In an OAE test, a probe containing a microphone and speaker is inserted into the ear canal and sound is generated. This stimulates the cochlea and causes tiny hair cells to vibrate in response, producing their own faint sound known as an otoacoustic emission. When hearing loss exceeds 25-30 decibels (dB), no sounds will be produced. OAE testing is commonly used in newborn hearing screening.
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)Testing – In an ABR test, electrodes are attached to your head, scalp and earlobes and you are given headphones to wear. A series of clicking noises is sent through the headphones and the electrodes measure your brainwave activity in response to these sounds. It is a reliable indicator of sensorineural hearing loss and is often used in newborn hearing screening programs.
- Tympanometry or Ocoustic Immittance Testing– A technique that measures immittance of the middle ear at various levels of air pressure; helpful in the diagnosis of middle ear effusion, Eustachian tube function, and otitis media.
The diagnostic hearing evaluation is covered by most health insurance policies, though you may need a referral from your primary care physician to quality for coverage.
The evaluation will probably last about 30 to 40 minutes in length. Our audiologist will 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.
It is recommended that you bring a family member with you to the evaluation appointment. Most audiologists agree that hearing loss is a family issue. 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. Our audiologist will pay special attention to any concerns you have about exposure to noise, tinnitus, and balance problems.
Hearing tests are completely safe and painless. They are performed in a sound booth and results are plotted on a graph that shows your response at different frequencies. This is called an audiogram. The results from your hearing test will provide our audiologist an outline of what sounds you may be missing or hearing.
Even if you do not suspect hearing loss, regular hearing tests should be considered a necessary part of your overall health screening once you reach the age of 50. Hearing tests may help detect a problem early, improving your chances of successful treatment.