A comprehensive hearing evaluation includes a battery of tests depending on your specific symptoms, in a large 8′ by 8′ soundproof booth for patient comfort and accuracy. Dr. Coates measures two pathways of hearing: through the whole system as well as your inner ear near the hearing nerve directly. Processing and understanding of speech is also evaluated because many patients struggle with clarity. At the end of testing, she will determine the type and cause of the hearing loss and educate you on the anatomy and next steps for treatment.
The specific tests done during the evaluation will depend on the patient’s age, symptoms and medical history. 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. The audiologist will also establish if the hearing loss is conductive (middle or outer ear problem) or sensorineural (inner ear problem or an issue with the auditory nerve and central auditory pathways).
At a minimum, a diagnostic audiologic evaluation includes pure-tone testing, bone conduction testing and speech testing.
Pure-tone and bone conduction testing
Pure-tone 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, however, a different type of headset is used to provide the audiologist with different information. A bone conduction test will help the audiologist determine whether the loss is conductive in nature or sensorineural.
A speech reception threshold (SRT) test is used to confirm the results of a pure-tone test. This test determines the lowest level of sound the patient can clearly identify words or speech.
The audiologist may also perform otoscopy (physical examination of the outer ear and, ear canal and eardrum) and tympanometry (test of the middle ear) to determine the health of the ear canal and the middle ear.
Specialized tests exist for infants and young children, as well as children and adults with developmental and cognitive impairments. These more-specialized tests allow the audiologist to test the auditory system when the patient is not able to actively participate in the tests or evaluation.
What can I expect during a diagnostic hearing evaluation?
The evaluation will last about 30-60 minutes in length.
It is recommended that you bring a family member with you to the evaluation appointment. Most audiologists agree that hearing loss is a family issue. It helps to have another supportive person at the appointment to help you understand the information and recommendations.
Before your appointment, a complete medical history will be completed and the audiologist will want to hear about any complaints you have about your hearing. They will pay special attention to any concerns you have about exposure to noise, tinnitus and balance problems. Make sure that you take a full list of any medications and supplements you are taking with you to your appointment.
The diagnostic audiologic evaluation is a good chance to establish a relationship with your audiologist. Above all, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You will want to be clear on any information you receive so that you can be an active participant in finding hearing solutions that work best for you and your lifestyle.