I raised my hand when I heard the beep. Wasn’t that a hearing test?

You had someone “check your hearing” at a local health fair; maybe even had it done more than once. You listened for a few tones and the person told you have some hearing loss. 
> You had a hearing test. True or False

You tell your family doctor that you suspect you can’t hear as well as you once did. He sends in his nurse to “check your hearing”. She puts earphones on you and you listen for some beeps and raise your left and right hands accordingly.
> You had a hearing test.  True or False

Your new smart phone has an app that “checks your hearing”. You hold it up to your ear and listen. The phone app rates your hearing.
> You had a hearing test.  True or False

If you answered true to any of the above statements, you are………..INCORRECT! However, if you answered false to any of the above statements you are actually more RIGHT than wrong. Huh? How does that work? By now everything is as clear as mud to you! But, please stay calm and don’t worry. By the time you finish this article it will all make much greater sense.

Most people equate listening for beeps, as described in the scenarios mentioned above, to having had a hearing test. In actuality, the scenarios depicted are actually hearing screenings. The purpose of a hearing screening is to obtain a rough estimate of one’s ability to hear based on a pass/ fail basis.  Screenings can be conducted by audiologists, hearing aid dispensers, or an individual trained in administering hearing screenings. These screenings are, by definition, tests, but only very basic tests, not comprehensive or diagnostic in nature. (Hence the reason you were more right than wrong if you answered false.)

In a pass or fail screening, the person conducting the screening will present tones at 3-5 different frequencies or pitches. These tones are presented at a set level. If the tones are even barely detected, the person will have passed the screening; if not they fail the screening and are at risk for hearing loss which results in the recommendation of a complete diagnostic audiological evaluation.

So, what can a complete diagnostic audiological evaluation tell you that a screening cannot? As it turns out, quite a lot! It will include a determination of the type of hearing loss, the slope of the hearing loss and the degree of hearing loss in each ear. Why are such determinations so important? Well, the type of hearing loss can indicate if it is temporary or permanent, whether it may be medically corrected, and if it may possibly be related to another issue such as fluid behind the eardrum.  The degree of hearing loss is important because it relates to how much difficulty a person may be experiencing when attempting to communicate with others. The amount of hearing loss is also an important factor when an audiologist selects hearing aids and performs programming customized to the individual’s hearing loss characteristics. In addition, in some cases a hearing loss may also be a symptom of another medical issue.

Another important component of a complete diagnostic audiological evaluation is known as speech discrimination testing in quiet and in noise. This portion of an evaluation helps to determine the degree to which an individual can understand or differentiate sounds and words in order to carry on a meaningful conversation. Our ear picks up the sound and our brain interprets the message.

So, while it is important to examine the function of the ear in sending acoustic information to the brain for processing, the processing of that information by the brain is crucial in interpreting that information and enabling smooth communication to occur. 

Speech testing, particularly speech in noise testing, is therefore one of the most important factors in assessing how well a person can expect to understand speech with the use of hearing aids. In some cases, even though the best of hearing aids are recommended and utilized, it still may be difficult to comprehend or understand speech particularly in a noisy environment. The longer one waits to be fit with amplification, the more likely of auditory deprivation becoming a factor which makes it a more difficult and greater challenge to be fit successfully.

Audiologists are the professionals of choice for this diagnostic evaluation and have extensive training and education in hearing and balance disorders.  In addition to administering the test, the audiologist will analyze and interpret the results and make appropriate recommendations which may include the use of hearing aids, assistive devices, or hearing protection. In 5-10% of cases, hearing loss may be medically or surgically corrected and an audiologist is trained to identify these conditions and refer to an appropriate physician.

Finally, a comprehensive audiological evaluation is required by law in many states, including Georgia, prior to the fitting a hearing aid. This requirement is for consumer protection.

The audiologists at Audiological Consultants of Atlanta are highly trained and licensed by the State of Georgia to practice Audiology. For the past 30 years, this practice has set the bar for excellence in patient diagnosis, treatment and care.  If you have any questions as to how you are hearing, this is the place for you!  Do not hesitate to schedule your appointment today! You’ll be glad you did!

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