Hearing evaluations are necessary when there is a complaint of hearing loss. They help with understanding the underlying cause of the problem. Hearing evaluations are also an important part of the hearing aid fitting.
A comprehensive hearing evaluation includes an otoscopic exam or a visual inspection of your ears. The audiologist will use an ear light to look in your ears to detect any abnormalities such as wax in the ears or ear infections. This type of examination can determine whether a medical evaluation is needed and if there may be a correctable cause of hearing loss.
As a part of a hearing evaluation you will undergo what is commonly called the pressure test. This involves blowing a puff of air into your ears to make sure your eardrum is moving correctly. This test can detect the presence of ear congestion or a condition called eustachian tube dysfunction. Findings of ear congestion or eustachian tube dysfunction will lead to a medical referral to have those conditions treated.
The audiologist will then use earphones to test your ability to hear different types of tones. Low tones, mid tones, and high-frequency tones will be evaluated to see at what levels you can hear them. Your ears will be tested one at a time. The audiologist will also test your ability to hear and understand softly spoken words. Words will also be presented at a level most comfortable for you to see how well you understand speech.
As a part of a comprehensive hearing examination, a box called a bone conduction oscillator will be placed behind your ear to bypass the outer and middle ear and check the hearing nerve. With this box behind your ear, you will be presented with the same types of tones that you heard under the headphones.
The audiologist will then go over the results of your hearing examination with you. Depending on the results, the audiologist can make recommendations to improve your hearing.
Types of hearing loss
In general, there are two types of hearing loss. The most common type of hearing loss is sensory-neural, which affects the hearing nerve. This can be due to the aging process, noise exposure, or a family history of hearing loss. There is usually no medical or surgical treatment that can correct this type of hearing loss. Hearing aids or amplification can improve this condition and can help you hear better.
The second type of hearing loss is a conductive hearing loss. It occurs when something is blocking the conduction of sound from the outer ear to the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss can be due to wax in the ear canal, ear infection, or problems with the small bones of the middle ear. This type of hearing loss is often medically or surgically correctable.
The comprehensive hearing evaluation can determine which type of hearing loss you have and the audiologist can make the appropriate recommendations.