If the unknown provokes anxiety, then a trip to the hearing specialist is especially stressful. While the majority of us have experience with the family physician and the community dentist, the trip to the hearing specialist could be a first.
It certainly would be nice to have someone teach you the process up front, wouldn’t it? Well, continue reading, because as you’ll find out, the process of having your hearing tested is usually straight forward, comfortable, and pain-free — with portions 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 an employee at the front desk who will hand you a few forms to complete. Not long after submitting the forms, a hearing specialist will come with you into a room to get started with the hearing examination, which consists of four parts:
Part 1: Case History
The hearing specialist begins the process by getting to know you, your medical history, and your hearing loss symptoms. Preparing for this step is crucial, because this is where you get to inform the hearing specialist the details of your hearing loss, what you would like from treatment, and your specialized hearing needs.
This part is all about you: what do you want to attain with greater hearing? Do you wish to play a music instrument again? Do you desire to be more active in work meetings? Do you desire 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 carried out is called an otoscopy. An otoscope is used to visually inspect the ear canal and eardrum to find out if your hearing loss is linked with infections, earwax accumulation, or obstructions. If the root cause of your hearing loss is something as basic as earwax accumulation, you could possibly begin hearing better within moments simply from professional earwax removal.
Part 3: Tympanometry
The second test is referred to as tympanometry, used to test the eardrum and middle ear. A device is placed into the ear that will alter the air pressure, evaluating how your ear responds to numerous pressures.
To understand this test, you have to first recognize that hearing loss falls into one of two broad groups:
- Sensorineural hearing loss — this is the most prevalent hearing loss. It is also defined as noise-induced hearing loss and it involves damage of the nerve cells of hearing.
- Conductive hearing loss — this hearing loss results from blockages or obstructions that limit sound transmission before the sound gets to the nerves of hearing.
Tympanometry is a test that can help to rule out conductive hearing loss, to make certain that there are no obstructions, infections, or middle-ear-bone ailments. Conversely, Audiometry, which is reviewed next, will quantify sensorineural hearing loss.
Part 4: Audiometry
The concluding group of tests will be completed in a soundproof room. These tests are collectively referred to as audiometry and will quantify your hearing range and sensitivity. Audiometry is the best means to quantify sensorineural hearing loss.
With the use of an audiometer, the hearing specialist will be able to establish:
- Which frequencies you can hear well and which you have problems with.
- The minimal decibel levels, at multiple frequencies, at which you perceive sound.
- The precise measurements correlated with your hearing loss (as captured on an audiogram).
- Your ability to fully understand speech, with or without background noise.
The test on its own, from your viewpoint, will be comfortable and uncomplicated. You will be presented with sounds and speech through earphones and will be requested to indicate when you can hear the sounds by pushing a device or raising your hand.
Assessing results and planning treatment
Soon after the testing is complete, your hearing specialist will discuss your results with you. If your hearing loss requires medical or surgical treatment (due to infections or middle-ear-bone problems, for instance), your hearing specialist can make the applicable referral.
If your hearing loss can reap benefits from assistive listening devices or hearing aids, your hearing specialist will collaborate with you to identify the perfect option for you, your budget, your lifestyle, and your aesthetic concerns.
Pretty painless for a lifetime of better hearing, isn’t it?