Diagnostic Audiologic Evaluation
If you or your child has been referred for a diagnostic audiologic evaluation, it means that hearing loss needs to be ruled out or further examined.
The evaluation is done to determine if a hearing loss is present, and if so, to detail the type and severity of the hearing loss. It also may provide insight into the cause of the hearing loss as well as provide guidance for the audiologist in making appropriate treatment recommendations.
What Tests Will Be Done?
The specific tests done 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. The audiologist will also determine if the hearing loss is conductive (middle or outer ear problem) or sensorineural (inner ear problem or central processing difficulty of 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. 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.
A speech reception threshold (SRT) test is often used with older children and adults 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.
The audiologist will 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 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.
Other tests may include:
- Auditory brainstem response (ABR) and auditory steady-state response (ASSR) testing
- Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) screening
For children, it is important to have a diagnostic audiologic evaluation whenever a hearing loss is suspected. It is the first step in identifying hearing loss and dealing with it to improve quality of life. Hearing loss in children can cause language and speech delays, learning difficulties at school, and behavioral problems.
What Else Can I Expect During a Diagnostic Audiologic Evaluation Appointment?
The case history and evaluation will typically last about 30 to 40 minutes in length. Along with the evaluation, you should generally expect to have time to review the results with the audiologist. He or she can interpret the tests for you, answer your questions, provide you with information and referrals as needed, as well as begin planning for treatment, if indicated. The diagnostic audiologic evaluation is a good chance to establish a relationship with your audiologist. Hearing rehabilitation is a process, not a quick fix.
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 about your ears and hearing .
If the determination is made that you need hearing aids, allow for sufficient time to discuss your options, or request a follow up appointment.
Hearing loss is a family affair. It is recommended that you bring a family member with you to the evaluation appointment. 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. He or she 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.
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.
There are many steps that are part of a hearing aid evaluation. If you suspect that you might need a hearing aid, you will first need to have a hearing evaluation. At the time of the hearing evaluation, a case history will be taken to determine how much your hearing problem impacts your day-to-day life as well as the lives of your family. A complete history will be taken, and questions will be asked about when and how the hearing loss started, if there is ringing in your ears (tinnitus) and if you experience dizziness. You may also have to provide some basic questions about your general health history.
The results from your hearing test will provide the hearing care professional an outline of what sounds you may be missing or hearing, but the personal answers about your daily life and perception about your hearing provide the basis for a more comprehensive hearing evaluation. You may be referred to a medical doctor specializing in disorders of the ear if there are other medical conditions your hearing professional thinks should be addressed before hearing aids are recommended.
If your hearing test reveals a permanent hearing loss, a hearing aid may be recommended. Your hearing professional may explain what sounds you are not hearing and what a hearing aid(s) 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 professional will help you choose the best hearing aid(s) style, features and level of sophistication based on your degree of hearing loss, lifestyle, and financial circumstances. The final decision on which hearing aid(s) is purchased is your choice.
Once you make a decision, the hearing professional may take impressions of your ears if you selected custom hearing aids or behind-the-ear hearing aids that require earmolds. Hearing aids must be ordered from a manufacturer and then programmed by your hearing professional 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 aids the same day as your evaluation.