When you begin to experience hearing loss of any magnitude, it's best to make an appointment with your physician. He can determine if a hearing test is needed to discern the reason for the loss of auditory function. Sometimes a medical condition like an ear infection, blockage, or a hole in your eardrum can be the cause, and these are curable without diagnostic tests.
If the cause of your issue is not apparent, you doctor will probably refer you to an audiologist in order to receive a hearing test. At the beginning of this visit, the audiologist will review your medical history, especially areas related to hearing loss. He'll probably ask questions about noise exposure, any medication you're taking, ear surgeries you've had in the past, diseases that may have affected your ear, and any hereditary factors that could have contributed to the problem. Once the questions are done, you'll begin a diagnostic hearing test, which help both the audiologist and your doctor determine the cause and extent of your hearing loss.
Establishing the Baseline: Tympanometry
This procedure evaluates the movement of your eardrum. The tip of a handheld tool is placed into your ear. This tool changes the air pressure within your ear and sounds a clear tone, both of which will cause a reaction from your eardrum. This reaction is monitored and used as a baseline for the rest of the tests.
Evaluating Your Ability
The tympanometry procedure is followed by several tests that are administrated through a set of headphones. The first addresses pure-tone. This helps to determine the softest tone you can hear at least half the time. Various tones will be played in the headphones and you'll be asked to indicate when you can hear each tone, either by raising your hand or pressing a button.
The second procedure determines your speech reception threshold. During this test, you'll repeat several words until the administrator has found the volume level at which you can understand and repeat only half the words.
Next is the most comfortable listening level procedure. You'll simply identify the level at which your ears can comfortably listen to a variety of sounds. An upper level of comfortable loudness procedure is similar. It measures the loudest level at which you would ever want to end sound. In fact, any sound that is louder would be physically painful to endure.
The last test with headphones is a word recognition or speech discrimination evaluation. Words will be played at a volume level that is comfortably handled by your ears, and you'll be required to repeat each word as you hear it. This analysis helps determine if a hearing aid may be beneficial for you to consider.
Finally, the bone that is located behind your ear will be manipulated to create a tone. You'll indicate at what point you can hear the tone. This test helps determine if your hearing loss is related to the inner ear.
Once the results are in, your doctor will meet with you to discuss treatment options.