A hearing assessment is carried out to identify the level and type of hearing impairment you may have. It is normally conducted by an audiologist, a professional who is experienced in identifying and resolving hearing loss and other hearing-related problems. During the assessment, the audiologist will evaluate your hearing capability and the auditory system's response to a variety of sounds and frequencies. They will be able to make inferences about your overall hearing health from the results of your evaluation.
Typically, you will be wearing headphones and seated in a soundproofed room for the majority of the assessment. The audiologist will play a selection of sounds through the headphones and monitor your responses. You will be asked to signal when you hear a noise by either raising your hand or pressing a button. They may also inquire about different characteristics of the sounds, such as their strength or duration. The whole test is relatively quick, lasting anywhere from half an hour to an hour; however, it will vary from person to person as everyone's needs are different. Depending on your individual requirements, you may not be subject to every stage of the test. Regardless, complete hearing evaluations are comprised of the following main components:
At the start of every hearing exam, audiologists will request that you answer a series of questions concerning your current and past medications and illnesses, any family history of hearing difficulties, the amount and length of time you are exposed to loud noises, hobbies, occupational background, and any hearing concerns you are presently experiencing. This is comparable to other medical examinations where you have filled out similar questionnaires. With this information, audiologists are able to procure some semblance of your overall hearing health status, which will aid them in confirming various aspects of your performance during the following stages of the test.
This non-invasive procedure involves using an otoscope, which is basically a type of magnifying instrument equipped with a light source to examine the outer and middle ear. During an otoscopy, the audiologist looks for various physical abnormalities like fluid and wax buildup or inflammation, which could cause hearing loss and other complications. They will also thoroughly investigate the physical condition of your eardrum to identify any perforation or scarring.
To assess the flexibility of your eardrums, audiologists employ tympanometry tests. This method involves inserting a tympanometer probe into the ear canal. This tool modifies the pressure within the ear, produces a pure-tone frequency, and captures the eardrum's reactions to the noise under different pressures. The data from this procedure is used to plot a graph that illustrates how the admittance value shifts with the changing pressure, which is known as a tympanogram.
To evaluate your ability to comprehend speech, a study is conducted in a soundproof space utilizing headphones. This evaluation has two components: the Speech Reception Threshold (SRT) analysis and the Word Recognition Test (WRT). In the SRT examination, different words are played over the headphones while the volume is gradually diminished until you can only correctly recite 50% of the words heard. The WRT evaluates your skill in recognizing words at predetermined sound levels. After both evaluations, one can estimate the potential for improvement with various treatments.
Air and Bone Conduction Testing
To identify the origin of your hearing problem, two exams are conducted. In both of them, you will again be in a soundproof space. For the Air Conduction Test, you have to wear headphones that will generate different frequencies. Upon hearing them, you will be asked to raise your hand or press a button. For the Bone Conduction Test, a headband that contains a plastic vibrating device will be placed around your head, with the unit positioned right behind your ear. These vibrations will circumvent the middle and outer ear and travel directly to the auditory nerve. After these tests, audiologists will be able to determine if your hearing loss is due to physical matters or some defect of the auditory nerve.