Types of hearing tests – audiologist Paradise CA

What is a hearing test like? – audiologist Paradise CA

Although many people recognize the importance of having their hearing professionally tested, many aren’t sure what to expect when they actually go in for a hearing test. How is a hearing test conducted? Should you do anything to prepare?

Screening versus evaluation – audiologist Paradise CA

One important distinction to make is the difference between a hearing screening test and a hearing evaluation. A hearing screening is performed on a relatively large population, most of whom likely do not have hearing problems (for example, an entire class of children at school). The goal of the test is to quickly sort the population into those who are very likely fine and those who need further evaluation to determine whether or not they have a hearing problem. Those who don’t pass the screening test don’t necessarily have a hearing problem; they simply need further testing.

By contrast, a hearing evaluation is performed on someone who is suspected to have a hearing problem. This evaluation is generally performed by an audiologist, and it involves more detailed testing. In some cases, a person comes to an audiologist for testing because a hearing screening showed a possible hearing problem. In other cases, the person comes because they have symptoms that could indicate hearing loss.

Hearing screening or testing may involve one or more of the following types of tests.

Pure tone hearing test – audiologist Paradise CA

This is a common type of hearing test, which is used both for hearing screening for children and adults, and as part of a hearing evaluation. For this test, the person being tested usually wears headphones, allowing a sound to be presented to one ear at a time. For babies and young children who refuse to wear headphones, the test may be performed inside of a soundproofed booth. However, this type of testing may miss a hearing loss in only one ear, and so it’s preferable to use headphones whenever possible.

The tester presents sounds at various pitches, and with a varying degree of loudness. The subject indicates (for instance, by raising one hand) each time he or she hears a sound. This allows the creation of a chart showing the minimum volume the subject can hear at each pitch.

Speech testing – audiologist Paradise CA

In daily life, the most common use of hearing is to listen to another person speaking. This is why speech testing is also useful in evaluating a person’s hearing. The audiologist presents speech at varying degrees of loudness, to determine how loud the sound must be for the subject to hear speech well enough to understand it half of the time. The audiologist may also ask the subject to repeat words back.

Sometimes speech testing is done in a quiet environment, and sometimes in the presence of background noise. Those with hearing loss often have trouble tuning out background noise, and this is useful information for the treating audiologist.

Middle ear testing – audiologist Paradise CA

Certain types of tests are useful to help to determine which type of hearing loss is present. Tests of the middle ear evaluate the functioning of this part of the ear. The middle ear’s function is to communicate sounds from the eardrum to the cochlea (the organ of hearing perception in the inner ear). In young children, disease in the middle ear is a more common cause of hearing loss than in adults. This is largely due to the prevalence in this age group of otitis media (“ear infections” of the middle ear).

Tests may include tympanometry, which involves pushing a small amount of air into the middle ear to see how much the eardrum moves in response. When the middle ear is filled with fluid (usually from an infection), the eardrum cannot move as much as normal. Testing of the acoustic reflex, which measures the response of certain muscles inside of the ear to sound, can also be useful. Static acoustic impedance measures the total volume of air in the middle ear. This can help to detect problems like a perforated eardrum, or to check whether a child’s ear tubes are still open.

Auditory brainstem response and otoacoustic emissions – audiologist Paradise CA

Auditory brainstem response testing is now used for newborn hearing screenings in many hospitals. Electrodes are placed over the head. Sounds are presented to each ear, and the brain’s electrical response to the sounds is recorded. The subject doesn’t need to be able to respond to the sound, and doesn’t even need to be awake during the test, making this type of testing perfect for newborn hearing screening.

Otoacoustic emissions are the very soft sounds given off by the structures of the middle ear as they respond to sounds. A probe placed inside of the ear canal can detect these sounds. This test can also be used for newborn hearing screening, because it does not require any response from the subject.

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