A hearing evaluation is a test to assess the sensitivity of a patient’s hearing. It is useful in detecting the type and extent of hearing loss, if any, and can help an audiologist determine an appropriate course of treatment.
Hearing loss is progressive, and often comes on so gradually you are unaware of a problem until it has reached an advanced stage. The sooner you recognize an impairment, the more effective a solution will be. Catching hearing loss early can enable you to continue with the lifestyle you are accustomed to.
During a hearing evaluation, an audiologist will review your medical history, and ask questions about your hearing. Next, he or she will examine your ears with a lighted instrument called an otoscope to check for anything out of the ordinary. Finally, a series of tests will be performed to determine whether a hearing loss exists. If so, the audiologist will look for the cause, and measure the degree of loss.
A complete hearing evaluation typically consists of several different types of hearing tests. An audiometer test is used to measure an individual’s hearing sensitivity at different frequencies. The audiometer produces tones at varying frequencies and volumes in each ear, and the results are plotted on an audiogram.
A bone conduction test relies on vibrating tuning forks placed behind each ear. This is used to determine whether the hearing loss is conductive (a result of problems in the outer or middle ear) or sensorineural (associated with damage to the inner ear). The results are necessary in determining treatment options.
Other evaluations frequently administered include speech tests, tympanogram (to test eardrum function), and an acoustic reflex test to measure contractions of the muscle that protect the ear from loud noises.