If you suspect that you might need a hearing aid, you will first need to have a hearing evaluation. At the time of your hearing evaluation, a case history will be taken to determine the extent to which your hearing problem impacts your day-to-day life as well as the lives of your family members. Your hearing specialist will review your general health history and ask when and how the hearing loss started, if there is ringing in your ears (tinnitus), and if you experience dizziness.
The results from your hearing evaluation will provide your hearing specialist with an outline of what sounds you may be missing or hearing. In addition, your personal answers about your daily life and your perception of your hearing will provide the basis for a more comprehensive hearing evaluation. You may be referred to a medical doctor specializing in disorders of the ear if you are a candidate for hearing aids or if there are other medical conditions your hearing specialist thinks should be addressed before hearing aids are recommended. This referral is often the first step in the hearing aid examination.
If your hearing evaluation reveals permanent hearing loss, your hearing specialist may recommend a hearing aid for one or both ears. Your hearing specialist will also explain what sounds you are not hearing and what a hearing aid (or hearing aids) can do to help. It is usually at this appointment that you will get to see and touch different styles of hearing aids. In some cases, you may even be able to listen to a hearing aid. Your hearing specialist will help you choose the best hearing aid style, features, and level of sophistication based on your degree of hearing loss, your lifestyle, and your financial circumstances. However, the final decision regarding which hearing aid to purchase is yours.
Once you make a decision, your hearing specialist may take impressions of your ears if you select custom hearing aids or behind-the-ear hearing aids that require earmolds. Hearing aids usually must be ordered from a manufacturer and then programmed by your hearing specialist to meet your specific hearing needs. This process can take a few weeks, so do not be disappointed when you do not receive your hearing aid(s) on the same day as your evaluation.
A hearing screening is a quick test to see if you need a more comprehensive hearing test. Adults may have hearing screenings as part of their annual checkup or as part of a workplace health evaluation.
If you are concerned about your hearing, give us a call at (919) 300-5438 and we’ll schedule a hearing screening for you. If you pass the hearing screening, there won’t be a need for any further evaluation. But if you fail the hearing screening, we will do further testing to determine the type and severity of hearing loss and will prescribe the best treatment option available.
Most adults haven’t had their hearing tested since they were in grade school. At Coates Hearing Clinic, we recommend that you have your hearing tested more often. Your hearing health should not be treated any differently than your dental health (2 cleanings per year) or your vision health (1 exam every 2 years). Having regular hearing tests help hearing specialists better understand how much your hearing has changed over time, and they will prescribe your treatment options accordingly.
Baseline Hearing Test for Young Adults
We recommend that young adults have a baseline hearing test at age 21. A baseline test will tell us what your hearing is at that point in time, and when you are older we can compare it to more recent tests to see how much your hearing has changed.
Regular Hearing Tests
After a baseline hearing test at age 21, we recommend that you have a hearing test every 10 years thereafter until age 50. After age 50, you should have a hearing test every 3 years.
Our Hearing Evaluations
Our hearing evaluations are very thorough. We perform comprehensive hearing assessments for adults, and seniors. Read more about our Diagnostic Audiologic Evaluation and Diagnostic Hearing Evaluation below. Once completed, we will provide you with a report with an interpretation of results and recommendations. We will also send a copy of the report to your physician.
Diagnostic Audiologic Evaluation
If you have been referred for a diagnostic audiologic evaluation, it means that hearing loss needs to be ruled out or further examined. A diagnostic audiologic evaluation may be indicated for individuals who did not pass an initial hearing screening.
We use the evaluation to determine if hearing loss is present, and if so, to detail the type and severity of the hearing loss. The test may also provide insight into the cause of the hearing loss, and it can provide guidance as we recommend treatments.
The specific tests used during the evaluation will depend on the patient’s age and what is known already about their hearing status. These various tests will determine the degree of hearing loss, the type of hearing loss, and the conditions of the ear canal and middle ear. Your hearing specialist will also determine if the hearing loss is conductive (middle or outer ear problem) or sensorineural (inner ear problem or central processing issue within the brain).
A diagnostic audiologic evaluation includes pure-tone testing, bone-conduction testing, and speech testing.
Pure-Tone Air and Bone Conduction Testing. Pure-tone air conduction testing determines the quietest tones that a person can hear at different frequencies, both low and high. Bone conduction testing is similar to pure-tone air conduction testing. However, a different type of headphone is used during bone conduction testing, and the results help the specialist determine if the hearing loss is originating from the outer/middle ear or from the inner ear.
Speech Testing. A speech reception threshold (SRT) test is often used to confirm the results of a pure-tone test. This test determines the lowest level at which the patient can recognize words or speech stimuli.
Your hearing specialist may also perform otoscopy (examining the ear canal) and tympanometry (test of the middle ear) to determine the health of the ear canal and the middle ear.
Specialized tests exist for adults with developmental and cognitive impairments. These specialized tests allow the hearing specialist to test the auditory system when the patient is not able to participate in the tests or evaluations actively.
Other tests may include the following:
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Testing
- Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Screening
Audiologists are specialists in hearing and hearing rehabilitation. Never hesitate to ask your audiologist for clarification or further information on anything you do not understand.
Diagnostic Hearing Evaluation
A diagnostic hearing evaluation is the first step in determining your hearing capability. If you have hearing loss, the evaluation will detail the extent, type, and specifics of your hearing loss. Diagnostic hearing evaluations are performed by an audiologist, usually in his or her office, using a piece of equipment called an audiometer.
Diagnostic hearing evaluations consist of a variety of tests that help determine the unique aspects of your hearing loss, as well as the level at which you can detect and understand speech. They can be conducted on people of any age, from newborn infants to seniors.
A diagnostic hearing evaluation may include the following tests:
- Air conduction test
- Bone conduction test
- Speech testing
- Distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE) testing
- Auditory brainstem response (ABR) testing
- Tympanometry or acoustic immittance testing
Diagnostic hearing evaluations are covered by most health insurance policies, though you may need a referral from your primary care physician to qualify for coverage.
Diagnostic hearing evaluations identify hearing loss and give your audiologist important information to help determine the best course of action for treatment. Some types of hearing loss can be treated medically or surgically, so it’s important that these types of hearing loss be ruled out before hearing aids or other treatments are considered.
If it is determined that you could benefit from hearing aids, a diagnostic hearing evaluation can help your audiologist determine which hearing aids will be most appropriate for your needs.
Diagnostic Hearing Evaluation Consultation
The evaluation will probably last about 30 to 40 minutes in length. You should also allow some time for a discussion with the audiologist to review the test results and ask questions. If the audiologist determines that you need a hearing aid, allow sufficient time to discuss your options.
For the evaluation appointment, you should bring a family member with you, as it helps to have another supportive person at the appointment to help you understand the information and recommendations.
Before your appointment, you will need to provide your complete medical history, and the audiologist will want to hear about any complaints you have regarding your hearing. He or she will pay special attention to any concerns you have regarding noise exposure, tinnitus, or balance problems. Make sure that you take a full list of any medications and supplements you are taking with you to your appointment.
Finally, the diagnostic hearing evaluation provides a good opportunity to establish a relationship with your audiologist. Above all, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Clarify any information you receive so that you can be an active participant in the search for a hearing solution that fits you and your lifestyle.