If the unknown triggers anxiety, then a trip to the hearing specialist is particularly nerve-racking. While virtually all of us have experience with the family physician and the community dentist, the visit to the hearing specialist could be a first.
It certainly would be helpful to have someone summarize the process up front, wouldn’t it? Well, keep reading, because as you’ll find out, the process of having your hearing tested is usually simple, comfortable, and pain-free — with portions that can actually be fun.
So here’s how it will go:
Just after you arrive at the office, you will check in with an employee at the front desk who will hand you some forms to complete. Shortly after filling in the forms, a hearing specialist will accompany you into a room to get started with the hearing examination, which consists of four parts:
Part 1: Case History
The hearing specialist starts the process by getting to know you, your medical-related history, and your hearing loss symptoms. Preparation for this step is important, because this is where you get to convey to the hearing specialist the particulars of your hearing loss, what you would like from treatment, and your personalized hearing needs.
This portion is all about you: what do you want to attain with improved hearing? Do you want to play a music instrument again? Do you want to be more engaged in work meetings? Do you desire to be more lively at social gatherings? The more you can describe to your hearing specialist the better.
Next comes the testing.
Part 2: Otoscopy
The first diagnostic test to be completed is termed an otoscopy. An otoscope is used to visually evaluate the ear canal and eardrum to find if your hearing loss is connected with infections, earwax buildup, or obstructions. If the cause for your hearing loss is something as quick and easy as earwax buildup, you could possibly start hearing better within moments simply from expert earwax removal.
Part 3: Tympanometry
The second test is named tympanometry, used to test the eardrum and middle ear. A device is placed into the ear that will modify the air pressure, evaluating how your ear responds to a variety of pressures.
To understand this test, you have to first recognize that hearing loss falls into one of two general categories:
- Sensorineural hearing loss — this is the most widespread hearing loss. It is also identified as noise-induced hearing loss and it involves damage of the nerve cells of hearing.
- Conductive hearing loss — this hearing loss results from blockages or obstructions that constrain sound conduction before the sound arrives at the nerve cells of hearing.
Tympanometry is a test that can help to rule out conductive hearing loss, to be sure that there are no obstructions, infections, or middle-ear-bone complications. Conversely, Audiometry, which is reviewed next, will quantify sensorineural hearing loss.
Part 4: Audiometry
The concluding group of tests will be completed in a soundproof room. These tests are jointly known as audiometry and will quantify your hearing range and sensitivity. Audiometry is the best approach to calculate sensorineural hearing loss.
With the use of an audiometer, the hearing specialist will be able to identify:
- Which frequencies you can hear comfortably and which you have a tough time with.
- The minimum decibel levels, at differing frequencies, at which you perceive sound.
- The precise measurements correlated with your hearing loss (as documented on an audiogram).
- Your capacity to recognize speech, with or without background noise.
The test itself, from your perspective, will be comfortable and effortless. You will be presented with sounds and speech through headsets and will be asked to demonstrate when you can hear the sounds by pushing a control or raising your hand.
Assessing results and planning treatment
Soon after the testing is complete, your hearing specialist will review your results with you. If your hearing loss will require medical or surgical treatment (due to infections or middle-ear-bone problems, for example), your hearing specialist can make the appropriate referral.
If your hearing loss can benefit from assistive listening devices or hearing aids, your hearing specialist will collaborate with you to pick the ideal option for you, your finances, your lifestyle, and your cosmetic considerations.
Pretty easy for a lifetime of better hearing, isn’t it?