If you’ve been experiencing difficulty in hearing and have made your first appointment for a hearing screening, you may be a little intimidated not knowing what to expect. Any apprehension, though, may be reduced significantly by gaining a little insight into what the process and tests entail. First, though, it is important to note that hearing tests are conducted by state-licensed practitioners, and held in special booths and highly quiet rooms created for the purpose of conducting the tests.
Initially, you will be asked several questions concerning your medical history, such as any hearing loss in your family, ear problems as a child or medications that you are currently taking. You will also be asked if you have experienced difficulties in hearing, whether any change in hearing has been gradual or sudden, the ear or ears affected, and whether you have experienced ringing in any or both ears. These questions are asked in order to help obtain a clear picture of what could be taking place with your hearing and to know what to look for while conducting the actual hearing tests.
After the questions have been completed, a physical examination will be performed, which consists of the specialist using an otoscope to look inside the ears to detect any visible problems–for instance, an accumulation of ear wax or unusual growths inside the ear canal. A video otoscope may also be used, which will allow viewing of the examination on a screen while it is being conducted. If it is determined that hearing conditions that may be corrected by a doctor are not present, additional testing is then performed.
Air Conduction Testing
In order to test the amount of extremely soft tones that one can hear at least half of the time they are presented, an air conduction test is performed. For this test, earphones are used while the patient sits in a booth especially designed for this test. A set of tones are played at various levels, and the patient signifies to the technician that the tone is heard, by either pressing a button or raising a finger. Results are then charted on a graph which will indicate how sound is being processed.
Bone Conduction Testing
Much like the air conduction test, a bone conduction test is performed, where various tones are played. These tones are sent to a device behind the ear, rather than into earphones. In this manner, the tones will proceed directly to the inner ear, going around the outer and middle ear. The purpose of this test is to measure the ability of hearing specifically in the inner ear.
After the completion of the air and bone conduction tests, the results are then transferred to an audiogram, which may show hearing loss, at what level, and the type.
Also, the hearing technician will conduct a speech test, where words are played at different sound levels, then repeated back. The purpose of this test is to identify the level at which speech can be recognized and help ascertain whether or not hearing aids are needed. There are other speech tests that may be conducted to determine the level of hearing comfort. This information is important if hearing aids are in fact needed, as the devices can then be customized to fit the need of the patient in enabling them to engage in comfortable conversation with others.