Diagnostic Audiologic Evaluation
It is important to have your hearing checked to have a baseline as you would with your vision or teeth. The evaluation is done to determine if a hearing loss is present, and if so, to detail the type and severity of the hearing loss. It also may provide insight into the cause of the hearing loss as well as provide guidance for the audiologist in making appropriate treatment recommendations.
What Tests Will Be Done?
The following various tests/exams will determine the degree of hearing loss, the type of hearing loss, and the conditions of the ear canal and middle ear. The audiologist will also determine if the hearing loss is conductive (middle or outer ear problem), sensorineural (inner ear problem or central processing difficulty of the brain) or mixed which is a combination of the two types of hearing loss.
A diagnostic audiologic evaluation includes:
- Otoscopic exam: determine if the ear canal is free of wax or any other obstructions as well as visualize the ear drum.
- Case History: this gives us a complete picture of your health and possible hearing health related issues. Including balance problems, ringing in the ears, head trauma, loud noise exposure and any past ear problems or surgeries.
- Pure-tone testing: Tones are presented to see the lowest level (quietest) tones you can hear at each pitch both low and high. Like a piano keyboard bass to treble.
- Bone-conduction testing: Testing that bypasses the outer and middle ear to help determine the type of hearing loss present.
- Speech Testing: Words are presented to see how well you can discriminate one word from another as well as the softest speech you can understand. With hearing loss, sometimes speech can be distorted and it is important to see what damage to the speech sounds from the hearing loss has occurred. It is also important to see how well you can hear in noise. Sentences are presented with varying amounts of background noise to determine how well you hear in noise. Most facilities do not test for this and it is critical in finding the best hearing solution for you.
- Tympanometry: Testing of the eardrum and middle ear
Other tests may include:
- Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) screening
- Uncomfortable Loudness levels (UCL) which help see how sensitive a person is to loud sounds.
- Most Comfortable Loudness levels (MCL) which determines the most comfortable level a person likes to hear speech.
What Can I Expect During a Diagnostic Audiologic Evaluation?
The evaluation will probably last about 30 to 40 minutes in length. You should also allow for time for discussion with the audiologist to review test results, and ask questions.
If the determination is made that you need hearing aids, allow for sufficient time to discuss your options.
Bringing a Loved One
It is recommended that you bring a family member or friend 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.
Complete Medical History
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. He or she will pay special attention to any concerns you have about exposure to noise, tinnitus, and balance problems. Make sure that you take a full list of any medications and supplements you are taking with you to your appointment.
The diagnostic audiologic evaluation is a good chance to establish a relationship with your audiologist. It helps to ask around for recommendations for audiologists in your area and find someone who listens carefully to your concerns. There is a drastic difference in hearing health education between a Doctor of Audiology and a hearing instrument specialist. Above all, don't be afraid to ask questions. You will want to be clear on any information you receive so that you can be an active participant in finding hearing solutions that work best for you and your lifestyle.