Hearing exams are painless, non-invasive ways to measure how acute your hearing is and to determine whether a hearing loss is present. Hearing exams help detect problems with your ability to hear and can isolate possible causes. The analysis from your hearing testing will shape the way your hearing aids are programmed, should you need them. Here’s what to expect at your next audiology exam.
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Your hearing specialist is going to start your exam by collecting information on your medical history relevant to hearing loss. Health issues such as anemia, heart disease and diabetes are all linked to higher incidences of hearing loss. Additionally, hearing loss can be a contributing factor to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Some medications are designated “ototoxic,” meaning that they can have the side effect of damaging hearing.
Part of reviewing your medical history will also be talking about your current hearing experience. You’ll review any specific issues with your hearing specialist, including how long they have been present, what they sound or feel like, and if the hearing concerns are changing your mood or behavior.
Your provider may also ask you questions about your life including your daily routine, work and school schedule and social habits. If you are facing hearing loss, these questions will help guide what sort of features you will need in a hearing aid or assistive device. Finding the right hearing aid for your lifestyle means factoring in how you use your hearing on a daily basis.
The next stage of your hearing test is a physical examination of the ear. Using a handheld tool called an otoscope, your hearing health provider will check your ear for obstructions, infections and other abnormalities. Hearing issues due to impacted earwax can be easily detected with a simple physical exam. When an infection is present, signs can often be noticed in the appearance of the ear canal. Other problems, such as a perforated eardrum, are also detectable with the otoscope.
The next phase of your hearing exam will happen in a quiet, soundproofed room or while wearing headphones. Audio testing may involve several stages, each asking you to give an indication every time you notice a sound is played.
Your hearing exam concludes by looking at the audiogram that has been generated by your hearing test. Audiograms show how sensitive your hearing is by charting the minimum volume at which you can reliably detect a frequency. Most often, people with significant hearing loss show pronounced problems with very high or very low frequency sounds.
Your hearing specialist will review these results with you. If hearing loss is present, you’ll also discuss what your options are for treatment. While most hearing loss cannot be cured, it can be effectively managed using hearing aids and other assistive devices.
With pure tone testing, tones of various volumes and frequencies will be played for you. Each time you hear a sound, you will be asked to press a button in response. This lets the tester know what sounds and volumes you can hear and which are more challenging for you. Depending on the test, you may also be asked to indicate in which ear you hear the tone. Pure tone testing generates an audiogram that outlines the overall performance of your hearing.
A more nuanced picture of how well you hear is created with the speech recognition test. With this testing you will be played a spoken phrase or sentence and you will be asked to repeat back what was said. This gives your hearing specialist an idea of how well your hearing functions in everyday situations.
Your hearing specialist may perform other hearing tests as well. Bone conduction testing assesses how well the small bones of the middle ear perform by using a small vibrating unit placed behind the outer ear. Tympanometry is another middle ear test. It induces slight pressure changes in the ear to check for unusual fluid within the middle ear.
As we age, our hearing becomes more delicate and gradual hearing loss becomes more pronounced so getting an annual hearing exam is a great idea to stay on top of your hearing health. Here at The Beaufort Sound, we offer comprehensive testing and expert analysis to provide you with hearing solutions that are built for your lifestyle.