It is time to visit an audiologist or other hearing specialist because you have noticed that you are having difficulty hearing. You can be at risk for cognitive decline, depression and other health related problems when hearing loss isn’t treated. There are three parts to the initial evaluation of hearing.
There will be a conversation covering health history, physical exam of outer and inner ear and testing to determine both speech comprehension and hearing. After you receive your results and have them explained to you it is time to ask questions.
History of Hearing Health
The first part of your hearing checkup will consist of going through both medical and hearing history. You will also have the chance to discuss your concerns. The noises you have been exposed to and the level of the noise will be gone over.
Pure Tone Audiometry
Listening to tones at different volumes and pitches in a room that is sound treated using headphones is the pure tone audiometry part of the test.
This portion of the test uses live or recorded speech to evaluate the softest sounds that are heard and understood. You will have to repeat the words that are given to you at a level above the threshold to see how accurately they are understood. This test can also be used to determine the sound level that you are comfortable listening to, and what the upper limits are. There may also be a test of acoustic reflexes and the pressure in the ear may be tested. The reflexive responses of muscles in the inner ear and the movement of the eardrum will be tested during the session.
Basics of Results
An audiogram is a graph that shows the softest sounds heard at different frequencies and pitches. The volume or intensity of sound is represented on the vertical axis. The pitch is shown on the horizontal axis. Results are shown in decibels which are unique to the testing and based on perceptions of the level of sound pressure across frequencies.
Ask About the Hearing Loss Type and Changes
The treatment needed is determined by the hearing loss type. Learning how to protect the hearing you have left is important. There are three types of loss:
Sensorineural: Caused by damage to the nerves leading to the brain from the inner ear or to the inner ear itself. Normally permanent and often high frequencies are lost. Can usually be treated using hearing devices.
Conductive: Sound is not traveling effectively to the eardrum from the outer ear canal. This can be caused by blockage such as allergies, ear infection, wax or benign tumors. Removing the blockage will sometimes restore hearing.
Mixed: Combination of Conductive and Sensorineural. One or both can be present.
Is Hearing Loss Equal in Both Ears
The left ear is better at getting information from emotion, music, and intuition while the right ear does better with logic and speech. Hearing loss is not always the same degree in both ears. The hearing loss severity will determine if a hearing aid is required in one or both ears. Hearing aids come in a range of styles and types designed to meet specific needs and lifestyles. The more that you tell the professional caring for your hearing the better recommendation they can make about hearing devices that are suitable for you.
You will also want to know about insurance coverage for the cost of the exam as well as any aids for hearing that you might need. There is also the question of comfort and whether the hearings aids work properly to be covered. Every state in the U.S. has mandatory hearing screenings for newborns before they are discharged from the hospital.
After the Results
Once you get the results of the hearing test it is important to make sure that you understand them and the options that you have available to you. Ask questions about anything and everything that you do not understand. The type of hearing loss that is being experienced will affect the treatment, and it is important to understand the treatments as well. Writing down your questions and taking them with you to the appointment will help you to make sure that you cover everything before the test begins.