Why Test Hearing?
Hearing loss is progressive, and often comes on so gradually you are unaware of a problem until it has reached an advanced stage. The sooner you recognize an impairment, the more effective a solution will be. Catching hearing loss early can enable you to continue with the lifestyle you are accustomed to.
During a hearing evaluation, an audiologist will review your medical history, and ask questions about your hearing. Next, he or she will examine your ears with a lighted instrument called an otoscope to check for anything out of the ordinary. Finally, a series of tests will be performed to determine whether a hearing loss exists. If so, the audiologist will look for the cause, and measure the degree of loss.
The Importance of Hearing Tests
Many people have their vision checked regularly, but neglect their hearing. In reality, hearing evaluations are every bit as important. Hearing loss is a gradual process that may develop so slowly the patient is unaware of his or her condition until it has reached a stage where fewer treatment options exist.
When hearing loss is identified early, many patients are able to maintain the quality of life to which they have become accustomed. There may be more treatment solutions available, and they tend to be more effective.
Types of Hearing Tests
A complete hearing evaluation typically consists of several different types of hearing tests. An audiometer test is used to measure an individual’s hearing sensitivity at different frequencies. The audiometer produces tones at varying frequencies and volumes in each ear, and the results are plotted on an audiogram.
Other evaluations frequently administered include speech tests, tympanogram (to test eardrum function), and an acoustic reflex test to measure contractions of the muscle that protect the ear from loud noises.
Hearing evaluations are instrumental in measuring the sensitivity of a person’s hearing. They help audiologists determine whether a hearing loss exists, and if so, to what degree. With this information, an appropriate treatment plan can be developed.
Hearing evaluations begin with a review of your medical history. Your audiologist will ask you questions related to your hearing, and will physically examine your ears using an otoscope. Following these steps, a series of hearing tests designed to measure sensitivity to different frequencies will be administered, with the results plotted on a chart called an audiogram. Tests may include some or all of the following:
- Pure Tone Audiometry Test. During this test, you will wear earphones and identify a series of tones of varying frequencies and volume directed to one ear at a time. This is used to measure the threshold of your hearing range.
- Word Recognition Test. This measures your ability to separate speech from background noise, and is a useful test for determining whether hearing aids will be of benefit.
- Tympanometry. This test measures movement of the eardrum in response to changes in air pressure. It is used to measure how your ear reacts to different sounds and pressures, and can help an audiologist detect problems such as impacted earwax, fluid in the middle ear, perforated eardrum, and tumors.
- Acoustic Reflex Test. Measures involuntary muscle contractions of the middle ear when exposed to sound. Unusual responses can indicate problems with the ossicles, cochlea, auditory nerve, facial nerve, or brainstem.