Know more about your hearing test

We may realize that we are not hearing as well as we should, when we have to strain to hear clearly in noisy places, ask for repetition, or increase the volume of the television because it doesn’t seem to be very clear. It usually takes some time before audiologists see a patient who has noticed a change in their hearing. For some people hearing tests may seem a little scary. However, knowing more about our process of testing and diagnosis, usually helps.

Firstly, a hearing test is not painful!

Hearing does not occur in isolation but is an interactive experience with each environment and speaker. Hearing issues can be caused by underlying medical problems or even medication. This is why our first part of your hearing test is a comprehensive interview with one of our caring audiologists. We gather information about the symptoms you are experiencing, your general health, the medications you may be taking, and the everyday life you are leading, because all of these factors contribute to your experience of hearing loss. It also helps us to guide your options for helping your hearing if you have a hearing problem, leading to a better success rate.

Tests should assess different parts of the auditory pathway, from ear to brain

Testing should always take place in a sound treated environment or using special equipment to eradicate environmental noise. We will look inside your ear canals to make sure that your hearing change has not been caused by something blocking them. Then, using a canal probe, much like an in-ear phone, we will move your eardrum in the same manner that sound does, to measure the flexibility of your eardrum and the ability of your middle ear bones to conduct sound to the nerve. Often this test is accompanied by a sound reflex test, which gives us information about the pathway to your lower brain, and back again. The measurement is automated and you can just relax while it happens!

The next part of the experience is what most of us remember from school, that is, to listen to tones at different pitches and press a button when you hear it. These tones come from earphones. Sound travels all the way through your normal auditory pathway to your brain, and we quantify your hearing sensitivity at each pitch.  The test is repeated with a vibrating sound device on the bone of the skull behind the ear, to measure the sensitivity of hearing at each pitch for the nerve of the auditory pathway alone. The difference between the measurements, helps us to identify whether your hearing problem is caused by the outer or middle ear (conductive), by a change in the nerve (sensorineural) or both (mixed).    

Tests should measure a real-world experience!

But of course, we do not listen to beeps all day, we most often listen to speech! Our hearing tests include evaluating your ability to hear speech at soft, medium, and loud levels, in quiet and in noise. Speech tests more accurately reflect the experience you may have in everyday life and are extremely valuable! They define the quality of sound and clarity of speech you can hear. Our practice believes that these tests are critical prior to contemplating any form of rehabilitation with your hearing, because we obtain valuable information about your ability to decode complex sound information.

Additional special audiology tests exist to give more information to us, such as measuring the pressure equalization of your middle ear and eustachian tube, or increasing our information about your nerve fibers. We can also find out about other symptoms like ringing in the ears (tinnitus), sensitivity to sound (hyperacusis) or specific sound annoyance (misophonia). These will only be done if your specific complaint requires it.

“When we know better, we do better”

Once your test has been completed, our audiologists will explain the results to you, ensuring that you fully empowered to make a good decision about your options for management. The diagnosis may lead to a medical referral, where an ear nose and throat specialist will use our results to treat your ear; or, the diagnosis may enable you to choose the best device for your hearing health. Reconnecting with what you need to hear makes for a better quality of life.

The best outcomes are obtained with early diagnosis and early intervention, particularly since a change in your hearing will affect the way your brain receives information. Keeping our brains active is one of the most important health decisions we can make.  Good health decisions are underpinned by an accurate diagnosis, obtained according to “Best Clinical Practices”. Make sure that you find a quality solution that is tailored to your specific needs, with our professional support here to help you through every step.

– By Natalie Buttress