Hearing is one of your most important senses. It allows you to perceive sounds; and as a result, you are able to communicate with the world. This exactly why you should be cautious about early signs of hearing loss.
As you age, your ability to hear can deteriorate. Evidently, many elderly have difficulties hearing even when the ones they talk to are already raising their voices. This dilemma can come even at a young age if preventive or cautious methods are not observed. That being said, it is important to always be mindful of possible symptoms that may lead to such problems.
There are two common types of hearing loss that any individual of any age may suffer from. These include conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss. The former is characterized by the inability of sounds to easily pass into the inner ear, making it hard for a patient to hear clearly. Meanwhile, the latter involves the inability of the inner ear to function accordingly.
Hearing loss, regardless of what kind or how severe, along with other hearing problems, can be determined through a comprehensive hearing examination.
Complete Hearing Evaluation
A hearing aid evaluation is the best way to assess and maintain your overall hearing health, and prevent potential hearing problems from getting worse. It involves a series of comprehensive diagnostic procedures that will determine whether you have hearing problems or not. Moreover, a specialized hearing aid evaluation will also tell the severity of a potential hearing problem, allowing your audiologist to recommend the right solutions and viable treatments.
The entire procedure consists of five major steps. These include the pre-assessment, pure-tone test, bone conduction test, speech test, and tympanometry.
During the pre-assessment, be prepared to discuss with your audiologist your complete medical history. This will help him or her have an insightful background about you, enabling him or her to serve you better.
Take this opportunity to tell your audiologist about the symptoms you have experienced in the past, too. Leave nothing behind.
It is in this stage as well where you will undergo otoscopic evaluation. This is painless so there is nothing to be worried about. Using an otoscope, your audiologist will check your ears for any objects that might be blocking them. He or she will also use this opportunity to check how your eardrums look like.
Pure Tone Audiometry (PTA)
Once your audiologist has completed the first part of the comprehensive assessment, you will be redirected to a soundproof room where all of the following diagnostic tests shall be conducted. The first one is the PTA.
You will be asked to put on some earphones and to listen carefully for a beeping or whistling sound. Every time you hear this sound, you need to tell your audiologist.
The main purpose of this test is to determine the softest level of sound you can hear, thanks to the changing tone and volume employed in the test. This is done for both of your ears, one at a time.
Bone Conduction Test
The third part of the whole evaluation involves the placing of a vibrating object on the bones behind your ears, one at a time. You will have to listen carefully to the succeeding tones.
The main purpose of the bone test is to measure your hearing ability. The results of your pure-tone test and bone test will be consolidated to determine the potential hearing problem you are experiencing.
In a specialized hearing evaluation, it is also important to tell how well you can comprehend speech. This is done by asking you to repeat a series of words spoken before you at varying volumes. These words are given to you through earphones and loudspeakers, with and without competing external noises.
Lastly, tympanometry will primarily help your audiologist asses your middle ear function. Specifically, it will determine how your middle ears respond to changing air pressure and whether or not the passageway between these and your throat is open. Additionally, this part of the overall process will check whether or not your middle ears are free from occlusion.
A tympanometer is used in this test as it measures the movement of your eardrums. Tympanometry, however, does not evaluate your hearing ability.
Aside from this standard series of tests, there are also other tests or alternatives that your audiologist may further perform depending on the results of your initial tests. These include the following:
Acoustic Reflex and Decay Test
This is conducted by applying a pure-tone stimulus inside your ears. The sound shall play for 10 seconds.
Your acoustic reflex, an involuntary muscle contraction that occurs in the middle ear, functions well if the muscle remains contracted for the entire duration of the stimulus application. Otherwise, you may have a hearing problem.
Using a small tool placed into your ear canals, the nearly inaudible sounds produced when your cochlea is stimulated are measured. This test helps determine potential blockage to your other ear canals, damage to your outer hair cells, and the presence of fluid in your middle ears.
Tuning Fork Test
Tuning fork test is a more traditional version of bone conduction test. Using a tuning fork, which produces sounds when tapped gently, an audiologist allows it to vibrate and then placed around the head. This is an efficient way to determine hearing loss.
Whispered Voice Test
This test is simple. Your audiologist blocks your ears— one at a time— to test your hearing by whispering certain words at varying volumes. You will then be asked to repeat the whispered words. It is almost similar to a speech test.
Discussing the Results
Once your audiologist has conducted all the tests he or she deems necessary, he or she will discuss the results to you in the best possible way you can understand. He or she will also give you your audiogram copy. This is important because you need to present this to hearing aid dispensers should you be prescribed a hearing aid. However, some audiologists are licensed to dispense various hearing aids.
On the other hand, if the results indicate that you are suffering from hearing loss, you may seek for second opinion. Your audiologist may also recommend you as a candidate for cochlear implant if you wish for a more permanent treatment.
Should hearing loss really be the working diagnosis as per the results of your overall evaluation, your audiologist will also discuss with you its severity. This condition is measured in decibels (dB). Nonetheless, your audiologist will likely describe the severity of your hearing loss using usual diagnostic adjectives from “normal” to “profound”.
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