Think you may have hearing loss? There’s only one way to really know for sure – getting a professional opinion. Hearing loss can affect anyone and often progresses so gradually, it can sometimes be difficult to notice until you experience symptoms. That’s why getting a baseline hearing assessment and annual follow-ups are important in order to help you catch any deficiencies early.
The purpose of a hearing assessment is to determine not only if you have a hearing loss, but how mild or severe it is. A thorough hearing assessment can also help define the type of hearing loss you have: conductive, sensorineural or mixed and whether it will respond best to hearing aids or medical treatment. Brief, comfortable, and straightforward, hearing assessments provide your hearing care professional with valuable information about your auditory health.
About the Process
NOTE: When you visit a hearing healthcare professional, one of the first steps will be to provide information about your personal hearing health as well as your medical history.
Review of Hearing Health
At the start of your hearing assessment, your hearing care professional will review your personal information and health history. He or she will ask questions designed to learn more about your hearing concerns. For example, you may be asked about your symptoms, your history of noise exposure, ear infections, your family’s history of hearing loss, and the specific types of environments in which you experience difficulty hearing. During this time, don’t hesitate to ask any questions you may have.
Physical Examination of the Ears (Otoscopic Ear Examination)
Next, your hearing care professional will take a look in your ears by using a tool called an otoscope. This medical instrument is used to view your ear canal and the ear drum in order to determine whether or not there is ear wax obstructing the canal. Furthermore, your hearing care professional will take a look at your eardrum to make sure it looks healthy and normal. Sometimes your hearing care professional will have a video otoscope so you can see inside your ear as well.
Can You Hear Pure-Tones?
To get a better view of your hearing health, your hearing care professional will begin by conducting a pure-tone assessment. Administered in a soundproof booth, this determines the exact point, or “threshold,” at which you can hear various frequencies of sounds. Your doctor will place headphones over your ears, and the headphones will connect to an audiometer: a machine used to evaluate hearing acuity. The audiometer will transmit a series of tones at a variety of volumes into your ears. When you hear a sound, you will be asked to press a button – it’s as simple as that!
The next hearing assessment addresses Speech Discrimination. This allows the hearing care professional to learn how well you can discriminate common words being spoken at a normal volume. You will listen to a series of one and two syllable words at different volumes and be asked to repeat them as you understood them. This will determine the level at which you can not only detect, but understand speech. You may also be asked about how well you hear and understand “speech in noise.” This determine how well you understand sentences in a noisy environment such as a train station or school.
Your hearing care professional will record the results of your hearing assessment on a form called an audiogram, which contains graphics to illustrate the type, pattern, and degree of your hearing loss. Together, you and your hearing care professional will review the information in detail. The audiogram will reflect your hearing loss or areas of strength in frequencies and decibels, and it will reveal the percentage of normal conversational speech that you are capable of hearing. Your hearing care professional will make connections between the audiogram and your concerns about your hearing, so that you can begin exploring treatment options, if any are recommended. Even if you do not see profound weakness, this can serve as information for future comparisons.
Are you ready to hear all you’ve been missing?
Now you know what to expect when you have a complete audiological assessment. If you or a someone you know suffer from hearing loss problems, contact us today to make an appointment to get a comprehensive hearing assessment. If you’re hesitant about making an appointment and are not sure where to start, check out our online hearing loss questionnaire.