Health organizations are quickly to recommend the public brush their teeth regularly, see a dentist every six months, watch what they eat, exercise regularly, get regular mammograms past a certain age, and much more. While it does not make these recommendations any less important, the importance of protecting one's ears tends to go understated. In fact, not only is it important that you protect your ears (you only have the one pair, as the old saying goes), but also that you get a regular hearing test to make sure that damage has not already been done. Here is a look at some of the screenings that can tell you if something is wrong.
If a patient comes in complaining of their inability to hear, most doctors will perform a simple physical evaluation before anything else. This is because earwax is one of the most common causes of sudden auditory loss. It may also close up the ear canal gradually, causing the patient to believe that they are suffering from progressive auditory loss. If the issue can be relieved by removing wax, it can be done up front instead of wasting time and effort on other problems. Other issues that can be seen upon examination include foreign objects in the ear canal and eardrum damage.
Before bringing in more advanced forms of the hearing test, many doctors prefer to start simply, especially with patients who have not complained of injury. One such simple screening method includes speech audiometry. This consists of the health care provider having the patient repeat words back to them. This type of screening can sometimes be done online as well. Certain websites will improve the accuracy of their speech screening by playing white noise in the background at varying volumes. The inability to pick speech out of background noise is one of the signs of auditory impairment.
One of the clearest and most effective forms of the hearing test is the audiometer. This is what most health care professionals will turn to if the patient if complaining of problems. The patient puts on a set of headphones and the administrator will play tons of varying frequencies and volumes to see if the patient can respond. The results are printed on a graph called an audiogram, which can show whether or not the patient is suffering from injury. If impairment is indicated, the doctor can begin looking for possible causes, which can then lead to finding a treatment plan that works.