Are you concerned that you may have hearing loss? Do you think a friend or a loved one doesn’t hear as well as they once did? If so, you should schedule an appointment for a hearing evaluation. Hearing screenings and evaluations can tell if there is hearing loss, they type of hearing loss and if the hearing loss is temporary or permanent. No one should miss out on hearing the richness of the world around us. Here is what you should know about how hearing loss is evaluated.

Initial hearing screening

Hearing is initially evaluated using a hearing screening. These screenings can be performed at any age. This is a “pass” or “fail” test that is used to determine if hearing should be evaluated by an audiologist.

  • Babies: Newborns are routinely screened for hearing loss soon after birth. This is done before the baby leaves the hospital. Auditory brainstem response (ABR) testing and otoacoustic emissions (OAE) testing are the procedures used. These tests do not require a response.
  • Small children: If the subject is a child that is too young to respond to verbal queues, they are tested using are visual reinforcement audiometry or conditioned play audiometry.
  • Older children and adults: Older children are screened usually screened in the pediatrician’s office or at their school with a simplified pure-tone test. The same simple pure-tone test is used to screen adults at community health fairs and annual well-care visits.

Types of hearing tests

A hearing test refers is a full hearing evaluation performed by an audiologist. An audiologist has the training and equipment to completely evaluate the ability to hear. If hearing loss is present, they are qualified to determine the nature and degree of the hearing loss. Their hearing tests can determine if the loss is in one or both ears.

  • Medical history: The hearing test starts with a review of your medical history. It is important for the audiologist to know any history of ear infections, head or neck injuries, and all medications and supplements that you are currently taking. If you do have hearing loss, this information helps the audiologist determine the reason for the hearing loss.
  • Physical exam: Before any hearing test is conducted, the audiologist examines the ears for excessive wax, deformations or signs of infection. The audiologist uses an otoscope to look in your ears. This is a very small instrument with a light. This doesn’t hurt, but does help the audiologist see if there are physical reasons for hearing loss.
  • Pure-tone testing: A simple pure-tone test is commonly used for hearing screening. The pure-tone test that is performed as a hearing test is much more detailed. Both ears will be tested and the results are recorded on an audiogram. This doesn’t hurt, but does require patience on your part as the audiologist will test your hearing at different tones and frequencies.
  • Speech recognition threshold testing: If the pure-tone test indicates that you have hearing loss, a speech recognition threshold test may be used to confirm the results. It is used to determine the faintest level of speech that you can hear half of the time. Since speech happens in a variety of settings, this test will be performed in quiet and with background noise present.
  • Tympanometry: This is a test of middle ear function. It tests the function of the eardrum and the conduction bones in the middle ear. It measures how energy is transmitted through the ear. A small probe is inserted into the ear canal. The probe changes the pressure in the ear, generates a pure tone, and measures how the tympanic membrane responds to the sound at different pressures.
  • Static acoustic impedance: This test determines if there is an obstruction preventing sound from traveling through the ear canal. Like tympanometry, it tests how the ear is functioning.

All of the hearing tests are minimally invasive. The otoscope and tympanometry probe are small. There is no need to fear hearing tests. If you suspect you have hearing loss or a loved one doesn’t hear as well as they used to, make an appointment for a hearing test today.