Evaluating Hearing Loss

What is an audiologist?

Audiologists are professionals who diagnose, treat and manage hearing loss. Audiologists have a master's or doctoral degree from an accredited graduate program. Coursework and clinical training uniquely qualify audiologists to manage the hearing healthcare needs of patients from birth to adulthood.

An audiologist is a primary hearing health provider. Should the audiologist determine that a patient requires medical or surgical evaluation or treatment, the audiologist will make a referral to a physician specializing in diseases of the ear called an otologist.

Why should I see an audiologist?

Audiologists are experts in the diagnosis of hearing loss and can provide options for better hearing that meet your specific communication needs. Should you be a candidate for a trial with hearing aids, an audiologist can help you determine which would be the best hearing aid choice for your lifestyle and hearing loss.

What should I expect during a hearing evaluation?

Your audiologist will go through a detailed case history with you and determine the nature of your concerns. The audiologist will look in your ears using an otoscope. Testing will be performed to determine the degree, type and configuration of hearing loss. During testing, you will typically wear headphones and be asked to repeat words or sentences and respond to a range of tones. A comprehensive hearing evaluation may include many of the following tests: otoscopy, tympanometry, acoustic reflexes, speech recognition threshold testing, pure-tone testing, word recognition ability, otoacoustic emissions, and auditory brainstem response evaluation.

Following the evaluation, your hearing evaluation findings and the implications of these findings will be discussed with you. Should a hearing loss be identified, recommendations may include hearing aids, aural rehabilitation, good communication strategies, and/or assistive listening devices.

How do you test a child's hearing?

Our audiologists have extensive experience working with very young children. Hearing evaluations are tailored to the age and abilities of each patient. Audiologists are able to assess the hearing of children beginning at birth. There are special testing techniques utilized when working with young children. Some of these testing techniques involve the child performing a task such as placing a peg in a pegboard in response to sounds. These listening "games" can be fun for young children while providing valuable information regarding his/her ability to hear soft sounds. For younger children, testing techniques may involve the child turning his/her head in response to a sound. As the child turns to find the sound, this behavior is reinforced with a visual "reward" such as a lighted animated toy.

Objective tests are also available during which the child is not required to respond, but may need to sit still and quietly for approximately a minute. During otoacoustic emissions (OAE) testing, sounds are presented to the child's ear via a tiny speaker. A microphone then records a response to the sound from the hearing organ. This test provides valuable information about the sensory hair cells in the hearing organ.

Tests to evaluate the status of the middle ear and how well the eardrum is moving may also be performed with young children. A small puff of air is delivered to the ear canal and the amount of eardrum movement is recorded. Results from this test provide needed information about how the eardrum and middle ear system are functioning.

The audiologist will determine which tests are appropriate for your child's abilities and attention in order to obtain the results needed.