Diagnostic Hearing Tests
A diagnostic hearing evaluation is the first step in determining your hearing capability. If you have a hearing loss, it will detail the extent, type, and specifics of your particular hearing loss. Assessment of your hearing is accomplished utilizing a history and needs questionnaires, otoscopy and audiometry. Patient history and needs forms may be completed online prior to the initial visit.
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.
Otoscopy is a visual inspection of your external ear canal using an otoscope which is an illuminated magnifier. If your external ear is clear and free from earwax and other debris, then your eardrum may be visualized. The eardrum is translucent and middle ear structures or fluid effusions behind the eardrum may be observed to help identify diseases of the ear.
During audiometric testing tones will be presented to obtain your hearing thresholds where your just hear the sounds. Tone thresholds are plotted on an audiogram marking intensity in decibels against frequency or pitch. Tones are presented through headphones, insert phones or a bone vibrator. Bone thresholds measure your inner ear potential and help diagnose certian diseases of the ear as they are compared with air conduction thresholds. Threshold testing for speech is also accomplished and a test for speech discrimination presenting words at comfortable volume determines your ability to correctly identify words.
A diagnostic hearing evaluation may include the following tests:
- Air conduction testing
- Bone conduction testing
- Speech testing
- Distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE) testing
- Auditory brainstem response (ABR) testing
- Tympanometry or acoustic immittance testing
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.
Why a Diagnostic Hearing Evaluation is Important
Diagnostic hearing evaluations identify hearing loss, and give your audiologist important information to help determine the best course of action for treatment. Some types of hearing loss can be treated medically or surgically, so it's important that these types of hearing losses be ruled out before hearing aids or other treatments are considered.
If it is determined that you could benefit from hearing aids, the diagnostic hearing evaluation helps your audiologist know which hearing aids will be most appropriate for your needs.
What Can I Expect During a Diagnostic Hearing 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.
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. 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 hearing evaluation is a good chance to establish a relationship with your audiologist. It helps to ask around for recommendations to audiologists in your area and find someone who listens carefully to your concerns. 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.
"Your ear is a miraculous, complicated organ. For an accurate assessment of your hearing and, if appropriate, proper fitting of modern, sophisticated hearing aid technology, you should entrust your hearing health care to a professional."