Anyone that believes that they might be suffering from some form of hearing loss should try to make an appointment to see a professional audiologist for a hearing test as early as they can. An audiologist will not only test your level of hearing but try to find the cause of any hearing loss that the person is suffering from. Hopefully this article will shed some light on the different tests that an audiologist is likely to perform.
The first thing an audiologist will do is take a complete medical history. The audiologist will also want to know about the type of work you have done and what sounds you have been exposed to at work. You will be asked to give details of any illnesses and injuries that you have suffered that could have affected your hearing.
Some hearing problems can be genetic so the audiologist is likely to ask questions concerning other family members and their hearing levels. Almost all hearing examinations will involve the use of an instrument called an otoscope to examine the inside of your ears. The otoscope allows them to see the inner ear so they can check the patient’s eardrum for any visible signs of abnormalities.
Most hearing examinations will involve an audiogram which will be carried out in a sound proofed room. You enter the room and are given headphones to wear. Tones are played in both ears through the headphones and a record is kept of the lowest tones that the patient can hear in each ear. It’s quite likely that you will remember having a similar test done when you were at school. While the equipment used for this purpose in an audiologists office may be more sophisticated and accurate, the basic principle is still the same.
Some tests involve a pressure probe being placed in the middle ear. This test is known as a tympanometry. The air pressure in the ear will change whilst a tone is sounded. The purpose of tympanometry is to determine whether fluid or other disorders of the middle ear are contributing to the hearing loss.
Some hearing tests use a tuning fork as part of the examination. If placed next to the patient’s ears the tuning fork makes the middle ears to vibrate. Vibrations are then sent through to the inner ear by touching the tuning fork against the bone at the back of the patient’s ear. The audiologist will then ask which of the two tones appeared louder. By doing the tuning fork test the audiologist can determine the patient’s range of hearing and the precise location of any hearing loss.
Another common test to determine the part of the ear that is causing the hearing loss is the ‘site of lesion’ test. This test is used to compare the level of hearing in the patient’s ears whilst other noises are detected. The same equipment is used for a site of lesion test as an audiogram but it used to collect a different range of results.
The audiologist is likely to suggest other medical examinations to establish whether any other medical conditions are present which are causing the loss in hearing. A specialist may take an x-ray of the brain and inner ear to get a closer look at the nerves that are present.
The audiologist can get an accurate diagnosis of the problem and recommend effective treatments by combining a series of different tests. Because of the different hearing tests that are available a precise diagnosis can be achieved and effective treatments can help the patient go on to have a better quality of life.