Audiology evaluations consist of a series of tests used to determine whether a hearing loss exists and, if so, measure its type, degree and configuration. Hearing loss is a progressive condition that often develops slowly. Many people are not aware of a change in their hearing because they gradually adapt to the subtle changes in their hearing ability over time. An audiology evaluation should be the first course of action for anybody who even suspects a hearing loss. The sooner a diagnosis of hearing loss is made, the more successful treatment will be.
During an audiometric evaluation, the patient is placed in a sound-proof room and is asked to respond to different tones and speech. For adults earphones are inserted into the ear canals or headphones are placed over the ears and your ability to hear sounds of various pitches and volumes is tested. Next a small bone oscillator is placed behind the ear to test the response from the inner ear (the cochlea), bypassing the ear canals and ear drums. These results are complied into a graph called an audiogram. The audiogram displays a patient’s hearing thresholds across a range of pitches and determines the type and degree of a patient's hearing loss.
A hearing evaluation will determine whether your hearing loss is a result of problems in the outer ear, middle ear, inner ear, or a combination. With this knowledge, we can determine the appropriate treatment for you.
During tympanometry a small probe that looks like an earbud is put in your ear. A small amount of air will be puffed into your ear and a graph will be drawn. A tympanogram measures the movement of the eardrum and the pressure in the middle ear. It is useful in the diagnosis of middle ear disorders, such as otitis media (fluid in the ears), perforated ear drums, and eustachian tube dysfunction.
OTOACOUSTIC EMISSIONS (OAEs)
Otoacoustic emissions are sounds produced by vibrations inside the inner ear in response to sounds. During this test, the tip of a soft probe is inserted into the ear canal. The probe contains a speaker which makes a clicking noise, and a microphone which measures responses that are produced from the inner ear. The OAE test can detect damage to the inner ear before hearing loss is evident. However, OAEs only provide information about the activity of the cochlea, and do not assess the status of the auditory pathway from the inner ear to the brain.
OTHER HEARING TEST COMPONENTS
Word Recognition: checking your ability to understand and recognize words
Speech reception: determining the faintest level at which you can understand spoken words