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Types of Hearing Evaluations

Types of Hearing Evaluations

Many people believe hearing loss is limited to the elderly population. In reality, 15 percent of the American population suffers from some degree of hearing loss. In fact, more than 48 million Americans have a diagnosable hearing loss. A hearing loss diagnosis requires a visit to a hearing healthcare professional. While this initial visit can be anxiety inducing for many, the appointment is actually pain-free and very informative, due to the variety of simple tests and evaluations the hearing healthcare professional will perform. 

On average, there are five different tests exist that enable a hearing healthcare professional to determine a patient’s hearing loss – but not all of these are always performed. These tests include a pure-tone test, speech test, middle ear test, auditory brainstem response and otoacoustic emissions.

Pure-tone test

A pure-tone test establishes the range of pitches a person can hear. The pain-free evaluation pinpoints the faintest tones a person can hear at multiple pitches, or frequency. During the test, you will wear headphones. A sound will be played through the headphones, prompting you to raise your hand to acknowledge the sound was heard. For the most accurate results, each ear is usually tested separately.

Speech tests

During a speech test, you will be asked to listen to a conversation in both quiet and noisy environments. To determine your speech reception threshold, the hearing healthcare professional will record word recognition, also known as the ability to repeat words back.

Middle ear tests

Many measurements enable a hearing healthcare professional to determine how well the middle ear is functioning. These tests include tympanometry, acoustic reflex measures and static acoustic measures. During a middle ear evaluation, air pressure is pushed into the canal, causing the eardrum to move in a wave-like motion back and forth. Acoustic reflex, which is the contraction of the middle ear, measures help locate the hearing issue. Testing for acoustic measure enables a hearing provider to identify issues, such as a perforated eardrum, and check the opening of the ear’s ventilation tubes.

Auditory brainstem response

The auditory-brainstem-response test provides information about the inner ear and brain pathways needed for hearing. During the test, you wear electrodes that record brain wave activity and then are charted for the hearing specialist.

Otoacoustic emissions

Otoacoustic emissions, which are defined as sounds emitted by the inner ear when the cochlea is stimulated by sound, are measured to narrow down types of hearing loss. Testing these noise emissions requires the insertion of a small probe into the ear canal. The probe measures the sounds produced by the vibration of the outer hair cells, which occurs when the cochlea is stimulated.

If you have any questions about the hearing tests your hearing care provider performed or will be performing, don’t hesitate to discuss the results with them!