If the unfamiliar creates anxiety, then a trip to the hearing specialist is particularly stressful. While most of us have experience with the family doctor and the community dentist, the visit to the hearing specialist may be a first.
It sure would be nice to have someone summarize the process ahead of time, wouldn’t it? Well, continue reading, because as you’ll find out, the process of getting your hearing evaluated is commonly straight forward, comfortable, and pain-free — with parts that can actually be fun.
So here’s how it will go:
As soon as you arrive at the office, you will check in with a staff member at the front desk who will give you a couple of forms to fill out. Soon after handing in the forms, a hearing specialist will accompany you into a room to get started with the hearing assessment, which is composed 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. Preparing for this step is crucial, because this is where you get to inform the hearing specialist the specifics of your hearing loss, what you are expecting from treatment, and your specialized 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 want to be more involved in work meetings? Do you want to be more active at social gatherings? The more you can relay to your hearing specialist the better.
Next comes the testing.
Part 2: Otoscopy
The first diagnostic test to be performed is termed an otoscopy. An otoscope is used to visually inspect the ear canal and eardrum to identify if your hearing loss is linked with infections, earwax buildup, or blockages. If the explanation for your hearing loss is something as basic as earwax buildup, you could possibly start hearing better within a matter of minutes simply from expert earwax removal.
Part 3: Tympanometry
The second test is known as tympanometry, used to test the eardrum and middle ear. An instrument is placed into the ear that will modify the air pressure, evaluating how your ear reacts to various pressures.
To understand this test, you have to first know that hearing loss falls into one of two broad groups:
- Sensorineural hearing loss — this is the most widespread hearing loss. It is also referred to as noise-induced hearing loss and it involves destruction of the nerve cells of hearing.
- Conductive hearing loss — this hearing loss results from clogging or obstructions that limit sound transmission before the sound gets to the nerve cells of hearing.
Tympanometry is a test that can help to rule out conductive hearing loss, to make certain that there are no blockages, infections, or middle-ear-bone ailments. Conversely, Audiometry, which is reviewed next, will measure sensorineural hearing loss.
Part 4: Audiometry
The final group of tests will be carried out in a soundproof room. These tests are collectively known as audiometry and will measure your hearing range and sensitivity. Audiometry is the best technique to calculate sensorineural hearing loss.
With the use of an audiometer, the hearing specialist will be ready to establish:
- Which frequencies you can hear clearly and which you have difficulty with.
- The minimal decibel levels, at various frequencies, at which you perceive sound.
- The precise measurements associated with your hearing loss (as captured on an audiogram).
- Your capacity to recognize speech, with or without background noise.
The test itself, from your outlook, will be comfortable and uncomplicated. You will be presented with sounds and speech through earphones and will be directed to demonstrate when you can hear the sounds by pushing a button or lifting 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 requires medical or surgical treatment (due to infections or middle-ear-bone problems, for example), your hearing specialist can make the applicable referral.
If your hearing loss can profit from assistive listening devices or hearing aids, your hearing specialist will work with you to choose the perfect solution for you, your finances, your lifestyle, and your aesthetic considerations.
Pretty easy for a lifetime of better hearing, isn’t it?