If you suspect you are suffering from hearing loss, tinnitus, hyperacusis, or another auditory ailment, your treatment will likely begin with a hearing test. Brief, comfortable and affordable, hearing tests inform your audiologist about your hearing condition. A comprehensive hearing examinations usually lasts 30-45 minutes, depending on which tests are required. There are many different types of tests that work together to decipher your auditory health status. A thorough hearing test can also help define the type of hearing loss you have: conductive, sensorineural or mixed and whether it will respond best to medical treatment or hearing aids.
CONSULTATION WITH YOUR AUDIOLOGIST
To begin, your audiologist will review your personal information and health history. This healthcare professional will ask questions designed to learn more about your hearing concerns. You may be asked about your symptoms, your history to noise exposure, your family’s history of hearing loss, and the specific types of environments in which you experience difficulty hearing. Feel free to jot down notes ahead of time so that you are prepared and confident.
Once your audiologist understands your specific situation, a physical examination of your ears will be conducted by looking into them with an instrument called an otoscope. Using this tool, your audiologist can view your eardrum and look for issues such as a build up of earwax obstructing the ear canal or infections of the middle ear.
Here are the most common hearing tests that you can expect at an exam:
1) Pure Tone Audiometry Test
Hearing tests usually occur in a quiet, sound-treated room designed to keep out other noises, which could interfere with your hearing exam. You will be asked to wear headphones or soft earplugs with wires connected to an instrument called an audiometer that is used to conduct the test. Your test administrator will communicate and provide instructions through the headphones. A series of tones at different pitches and different volumes will play. You will be asked to trigger a button or raise your hand when you hear them. You will need to listen carefully because it is important to respond even if the tone sounds very subtle and you can barely decipher it. The test measures the very softest sounds you can hear at each frequency tested. This part of the test is called pure tone audiometry.
2) Speech Audiometry Test
A speech audiometry test is another component of most hearing tests; it uses recorded or live speech instead of pure tones. The speech portion of the exam evaluates the softest speech sounds, or the threshold that you can hear and comprehend. You will be asked to repeat back the words that are presented at different levels to see if you can understand them accurately. Some practitioners use speech sounds to determine your most comfortable listening level.
3) Tuning Fork Test
Some audiologists use a tuning fork to assess the ability of sound to move through your ears. This is a metal device with two prongs that creates a tone as it vibrates. The tuning fork may be placed behind your ear or on your head during the test. Your doctor can tell whether there’s an issue with sound getting to your nerves or the nerves themselves based on how you hear and process the tone.
The results of your hearing tests will be recorded as an audiogram, a visual representation of your hearing abilities in frequencies and decibels. It will reveal the percentage of normal conversational speech that you are capable of hearing. Your audiologist will review your results with you, and if a hearing loss is detected, you will learn about the type, pattern, and degree of your hearing loss. The measure of your hearing loss is calculated in decibels (dB) by using the following categories:
- Normal hearing (0 to 25 dB HL)
- Mild hearing loss (26 to 40 dB HL)
- Moderate hearing loss (41 to 70 dB HL)
- Severe hearing loss (71 to 90 dB HL)
- Profound hearing loss (greater than 91 dB HL)
Your audiologist will make connections between the audiogram and your concerns about your hearing, so that you can begin to explore your personal treatment options.
TREATING HEARING LOSS
After your hearing test, your newfound knowledge of your hearing health will help to inform your treatment plan moving forward. Using the latest developments in auditory research, state-of-the-art technology, and years of education and experience, our team at Audiology Associates of Redding will be able to find an effective treatment that works for you and get you back on the road to healthy hearing!