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Q&A: What To Expect At A Hearing Evaluation

Q: What can I expect at my complete hearing evaluation?

A: Many people think a hearing evaluation is where your provider plays a tone, and you simply indicate whether you can hear it. Fortunately, a hearing evaluation is more thorough than that and happens in four steps.


A typical hearing evaluation lasts from 30 to 90 minutes, and we encourage you to bring a trusted loved one with you. We find that a complementary perspective can help paint a complete picture of how your hearing loss is affecting you and your family. They can also take notes for you to refer back to later.
 

The Conversation

During this step, we review and discuss your medical history. You describe what sort of hearing problems you experience in common situations and how the hearing issues affect you and your loved ones.

But we’ll go beyond that, because the better I know you, the better I can custom-tailor a solution to your unique hearing loss.

We discuss your workplace, your hobbies and activities, and your family life. We do this so I can understand what might be causing your hearing loss as well as what things are key to your hearing lifestyle now and moving forward.
 

The Examination

Did you know sometimes resolving hearing loss is as simple as a good ear cleaning? That’s why the first thing that happens after our conversation is an ear inspection with something called an otoscope. This allows me to see if earwax, fluid, or debris is blocking your ear canal and whether a part of your ear is damaged.
 

The Diagnostic Evaluation

This comprehensive evaluation comprises tests to determine the degree and type of your hearing loss as well as the conditions of your outer and middle ear. Which tests are performed depends on your age, symptoms, and medical history. Everyone, however, receives the first three tests.

  1. Pure-tone air-conduction test
    This test is what people think of as a hearing screening or test. You put on headphones, listen for beeps or tones, and indicate which sounds you can hear. With this test, I can determine the quietest sound you can hear at different pitches.
  2. Bone-conduction test
    A different kind of headphone is used for this test. It tells me from where your hearing loss most likely originates and, therefore, what kind it is.
  3. Speech test
    You will hear words via headphones and you’ll repeat them. This measures how well you hear and understand words at different volumes.
  4. Tympanometry
    Placing a probe at the end of your ear canal, I will painlessly use air-pressure changes to see if your eardrum moves correctly, doesn’t move enough, or has a hole in it.
  5. Otoacoustic emissions test
    Using a different kind of probe, I will send a sound into your ear canal. Based on how your inner ear responds, I can learn information about the very tiny sound-receptor cells in your inner ear.

 

The Solution

Treatment options are based on all of the preceding steps. Because no two hearing losses are the same, no two solutions are, either.

Reviewing the results
We’ll review the results of your examination and diagnostic tests to determine whether you have hearing loss, what type, and what your options are moving forward. For example, you might require further evaluation from an ear specialist if the physical examination reveals damage to your ear.

Technology options
If we decide technology is your best option, we’ll determine together what style and level of technology will best support your hearing goals.

For example, some people require technology that filters out lots of background noise, whereas others don’t. Some people have ear canals that will accommodate completely-in-the-canal technology; others don’t.
 

An Active Participant

This process is all about your unique hearing needs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, request that I repeat something, or be candid. This evaluation is the beginning of a relationship, not a transaction. Your active participation will lead to the most satisfying outcome for your hearing health.

Contact us if you’d like to know more about the process or to schedule an evaluation!

Online Hearing Tests: Can They Help?

Several online or app-based home hearing tests have been developed. Researchers have been studying how well work compared to a professional hearing test.

From blood-pressure kiosks in retail stores and vision exams online to home kits that test for HIV, blood-sugar levels, colon cancer, and more, the do-it-yourself approach to health screening continues to expand as the demand for greater convenience and consumer empowerment grows. Even online hearing tests are a part of the DIY mix, but do they work? What role can they play in ensuring your optimal hearing health?

Let’s take a closer look, including the pros, the cons, and the bottom line for keeping your hearing in top shape.

Some Pros

Imagine being able to accomplish anything and everything from the comfort of your own home. Sounds pretty convenient, right? We’re not quite there on a global scale, but quality online hearing tests could help you take a first step toward better hearing health without even leaving the house.

People take an average seven years to make a provider appointment after suspecting they may have a hearing loss, so imagine how much sooner they might seek professional help if they could make that first move — a hearing test — at home. It’s simple, free, discreet, relatively quick, and can potentially estimate your current hearing ability.

Several online or app-based home hearing tests have been developed, and researchers have been studying how well they compare to similar tests given in a hearing-care professional’s sound booth. Results have varied, depending on factors such as the specific DIY platform tested.

Some Cons

Even the most reliable online hearing test — one that potentially could determine your basic hearing threshold and indicate your degree of hearing loss — can be misinterpreted without the expertise to understand what the findings mean or how and why you have the potential impairment.

For example, a hearing loss could be caused by something as simple as a foreign object in your ear canal, or it could be a sign of issues in the areas of your brain that process sound. In either case, you may be unaware of the underlying problem, but heading to a big-box retailer to buy hearing aids won’t solve it.

Online testing also doesn’t provide the comprehensive evaluation you need for a more complete look at your hearing wellness:

  • Some online hearing screenings may use the pure-tone air-conduction threshold test, for instance, in which each ear is played a series of sounds through earphones, and you indicate whether you can hear each respective tone. The test measures the quietest sound you can reliably hear at least 50 percent of the time — the threshold. This important data, however, only scratches the surface. It doesn’t explain how well you hear speech, how well you understand it, or whether the hearing loss is due to an injury in your ear.
  • In addition to a battery of important tests that measure elements such as pure-tone air and bone conduction, speech and word recognition, tympanometry and acoustic reflexes, comfortable listening levels, the threshold of discomfort, and more, professional examinations include an inspection of your ears and an intake of your medical and hearing-health history.

The Bottom Line

A reliable home hearing test can serve as an important wake-up call in your hearing health. If you’re on the fence about hearing care, it’s an easy way to find out whether you potentially have hearing loss, which is best addressed by a trained, licensed professional.

Keep in mind, however, that a home hearing test shows you a symptom — it doesn’t pinpoint the underlying problem or provide solutions for your unique needs. An audiologic evaluation gathers nuanced data about not only your auditory system but ways to improve your specific hearing difficulties.


Your auditory system is complex, and so is the combination of people and environments that creates your unique listening lifestyle. If you’re noticing difficulty communicating in your everyday activities or took an online test that indicated potential hearing loss, don’t wait. Contact our caring team for a comprehensive evaluation today.