Suspect hearing loss and having a hearing evaluation performed? What can you expect? Each evaluation can be different based on the testing performed. Tests are chosen as needed to determine the presence, type, and degree of hearing loss.
An evaluation can be completed in as little as 30 minutes and as long as 90 minutes! If your hearing is being assessed as part of an evaluation for other, possibly connected issues (eg, balance disorders); specific tests not typical to a regular evaluation may need to be completed.
All hearing evaluations should begin with a thorough review of your related medical and hearing health history. Questions concerning decreased hearing sensitivity, specifics about the decrease and other pertinent medical questions may be asked.
Do not be surprised if questions regarding medications or medical conditions arise. A variety of medical issues can be associated with hearing impairment, and some medications are even known to cause hearing loss! Any and all information regarding your hearing you can provide will be helpful for the professional to determine what assessments will be necessary to evaluate your hearing fully.
Otoscopy is also typically a standard of hearing assessment. Otoscopy is simply the visualization of the outer ear through a lighted magnifier called an otoscope. The ear canal will be evaluated to see if it is clear of any debris or blockage, and the ear drum will be examined for any abnormalities or presence of possible fluid or infection in the middle ear.
Many hearing healthcare professionals assess tympanometry. Tympanometry is a pressure test of the middle ear system (ie, the space behind the ear drum, containing the middle ear bones [anvil, hammer, and stirrup]). Results will help determine the presence of any middle ear dysfunction, including: middle ear fluid or infection, perforations of the ear drum, or other issues of the middle ear.
Related to tympanometry measures, other emitting measures may also be completed to evaluate the reflex of an acoustic muscle, thought to prevent damage to the ear from loud sounds. These measures may not be standard in many professionals test protocols, but can provide valuable information in many cases.
Otoacoustic emissions evaluations may also be completed. This is a test of the inner ear functioning, more specifically of the outer hair sensory cells of the cochlea (organ of hearing). Damage to these cells leads to a particular type of hearing loss called sensory, cochlear, or sensorineural hearing loss. This test may or may not be completed at the time of your evaluation.
Air and bone conducture pure-tone evaluations are most likely to be part of a typical assessment. These behavioral tests require the patient to respond to sounds at the lowest levels they can be heard. Results of these evaluations are plotted on an audiogram, and are typically used to explain the type and degree of hearing loss found during assessment.
Speech testing may also be completed to help determine your functional use of hearing. In most cases, patients are asked to repeat words or sentences in a quiet setting or in a background of noise. Speech testing may assist the professional in determining your hearing aid candidacy.
Each evaluation is carefully determined to fully assess that patient's hearing loss and candidacy for hearing aids.