Hearing loss is an inevitable part of getting old. As a result, many older Americans are dealing with hearing issues to some degree.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2015 shows the scale of the problem. 19% of adults ages 40–69, and 43% of adults over 70 years old claim to have difficulty hearing without a hearing aid.
Anyone that begins to struggle with their hearing should take part in a hearing test with an audiologist. These sessions, which usually take an hour, help to determine the health of the ear and any reasons for hearing loss.
The 8 stages of the audiology hearing test:
1) The Questionnaire
The first step of this procedure is simple. The audiologist will ask a series of questions from a standard questionnaire to learn more about a patient’s case.
The procedure usually revolves around their medical history, history of hearing problems and current hearing loss. This often includes the reasons for getting their hearing test that days, specific problems and family history.
There will also be the chance to look into other health issues that may be contributing to the problem. This means problems such as vertigo and tinnitus, as well as pain, infections, and medications.
2) The Physical Inspection
The audiologist will then carry out a physical inspection of the ear canal and ear drum. This is a chance for them to look for infections, blockages and any build up of wax.
This next exam could be enough to spot an apparent problem and refer the patient for further treatment. Most audiology specialists will use an otoscope to look inside the ear. Some may use cameras if they have the resource for a clearer view.
Tympanometry is a simple hearing test that checks the inner workings of the ear. It passes vibrations through the ear drum and tests the air pressure.
It is a quick audiology procedure that sounds much worse than it is. The tests produce a tympanogram. This graph shows the relationship of the air pressure in the ear canal to the problem in the middle ear. At the same time, many audiologists with test acoustic reflex.
This is a way of seeing how the little muscles in the middle of the ear respond to sounds. This is all a continuation of the physical exam to determine the extent of the damage.
4) Hearing Tests
There are three types of hearing tests can follow here. There is the Pure tone testing that looks at air conduction response, the bone conduction oscillator and the sound field response though speaker in the room.
Both bone conduction and air conduction are in use because they test the responses of different parts of the ears. The results can highlight the area when hearing loss is an issue.
Those with poor readings on air conduction, but good hearing with bone conduction, have problems with the middle of the ear. The test takes place in a soundproof room where patients merely raise their hand or push a button when they hear a tone.
5) Speech Recognition
Speech recognition is an important part of audiology that gets overlooked sometimes. Those that can hear to a small degree but cannot follow conversations will struggle.
This test looks at the level at which patients recognize speech, with changes in the softness of the voice. Most will use spondee words for the patient to repeat back.
These words are simple two syllable words without intonations and stresses, like airplane, ice-cream, and sidewalk.
6) The Comfortable Listening Level
The comfortable listening level is the first stage in determining a threshold of hearing. This is important when making recommendations for a hearing aid.
The audiologist uses increases in volume during conversations to determine the most comfortable level of speech. The standard MCL for the average person is 40db louder that the SRT level. This changes with hearing loss.
7) Uncomfortable Loudness Level (UCL)
At the other end of the scale is the Uncomfortable Loudness Level (UCL), which also has other name Threshold of Discomfort (TD). It is just as important to understand the highest level of tolerance as the lowest for the range of hearing on a hearing aid.
The problem is that some audiology testers overlook this element in their processes, which means that the aids produced may not be as helpful or comfortable as they could be.
8) Word Recognition Testing
Word Recognition Testing uses the MCL discovered before and used that to help with word recognition. This test is the only audiology test that works on percentages.
Those that struggle to recognize words at their MCL may require further help as the hearing aid may not be enough. If your score is under 50%, you could struggle to follow a conversation at the appropriate volume. Those with a score below 40% could be eligible for a cochlear implant.
It is important to remember that this is just the assessment.
This session with the audiologist is to examine the ear and hearing thresholds to determine the scale of the problem. The results of these tests are then passed onto other specialists.
An audiologist cannot treat the ear if they find infection or blockage. From here, the patient is sent on to another doctor. Also, those that find that they are in need of a hearing aid face another appointment.
The readings from the audiology tests highlight the requirements of a hearing aid. Audiologists use the results to create a help. They will fit this in another one-hour session at a later date.
This session includes testing to fine tune the settings and guidance on how to use it. From there, there is often a 45-day trail and follow up appointments.
It can seem quite daunting when faced with this hearing test and the following dates. However, it is important that audiologist is this detailed and thorough in their tests for the best outcome.
The range of audiology tests for hearing, recognition, and thresholds helps to narrow down problems and find the best possible solution. It is worth the discomfort of exams and trials for a chance at a better hearing.