If the unfamiliar creates anxiety, then a trip to the hearing specialist is particularly stressful. While virtually all of us have experience with the family doctor and the local dentist, the trip to the hearing specialist could be a first.
It certainly would be useful to have someone make clear the process in advance, wouldn’t it? Well, keep reading, because as you’ll find out, the process of getting your hearing evaluated is ordinarily easy, comfortable, and pain-free — with parts that can actually be fun.
So here’s how it will go:
After you arrive at the office, you will check in with an employee at the front desk who will give you a few forms to complete. Soon after completing the forms, a hearing specialist will come with you into a room to start the hearing evaluation, which is composed of four parts:
Part 1: Case History
The hearing specialist starts the process by getting to know you, your medical history, and your hearing loss symptoms. Preparing for this step is critical, because this is where you get to describe to the hearing specialist the particulars of your hearing loss, what you are expecting from treatment, and your special hearing needs.
This portion is all about you: what do you want to accomplish with greater hearing? Do you wish to play a music instrument again? Do you desire to be more active in work meetings? Do you wish to be more involved at social gatherings? The more you can reveal to your hearing specialist the better.
Next comes the testing.
Part 2: Otoscopy
The initial diagnostic test to be completed is called an otoscopy. An otoscope is used to visually examine the ear canal and eardrum to determine if your hearing loss is related to infections, earwax buildup, or obstructions. If the cause for your hearing loss is something as uncomplicated as earwax buildup, you could possibly start hearing better within a matter of minutes simply from expert earwax removal.
Part 3: Tympanometry
The following test is referred to as tympanometry, used to test the eardrum and middle ear. A device is inserted into the ear that will vary the air pressure, calculating how your ear reacts to different pressures.
To understand this test, you have to first understand that hearing loss is categorized into one of two general classes:
- Sensorineural hearing loss — this is the most prevalent hearing loss. It is also described as noise-induced hearing loss and it involves damage of the nerve cells of hearing.
- Conductive hearing loss — this hearing loss results from clogging or obstructions that restrict 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 ensure that there are no obstructions, infections, or middle-ear-bone issues. Conversely, Audiometry, which is discussed next, will measure sensorineural hearing loss.
Part 4: Audiometry
The final group of tests will be performed in a soundproof room. These tests are collectively referred to as audiometry and will determine your hearing range and sensitivity. Audiometry is the best method to quantify sensorineural hearing loss.
With the use of an audiometer, the hearing specialist will be prepared to pinpoint:
- Which frequencies you can hear well and which you have difficulty with.
- The minimum decibel levels, at various frequencies, at which you perceive sound.
- The precise calculations connected with your hearing loss (as captured on an audiogram).
- Your capacity to recognize speech, with or without background noise.
The test itself, from your point of view, will be comfortable and very simple. You will be presented with sounds and speech through earphones and will be asked to indicate when you can hear the sounds by pushing a control or raising your hand.
Assessing results and planning treatment
After the testing is complete, your hearing specialist will discuss 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 reap benefits from assistive listening devices or hearing aids, your hearing specialist will work with you to identify the optimum option for you, your finances, your lifestyle, and your cosmetic concerns.
Pretty easy for a lifetime of better hearing, isn’t it?