The importance of a hearing evaluation

July 26th, 2016 by Mary Ann Gilbert, Au.D. No comments »

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Why should I get a complete diagnostic hearing evaluation before buying a hearing aid?

Wouldn’t you like to know if your hearing loss is medically or surgically correctable before you invest thousands of dollars on hearing aids? Don’t you want to know if your hearing loss is indicative of a more serious underlying disease?

Test inequality

Most people think that all hearing tests are created equal, but that is not the case. A complete diagnostic hearing evaluation is done by an audiologist. It is designed to not only measure how much hearing loss you have but also what the cause is. This is important to ensure that you get the correct medical care or surgical care for your loss. It also can lead to further medical tests, such as MRIs or blood tests, to check for underlying conditions not visible in your ears.

Elements of a complete test

A complete hearing test will include checking your ears for wax and insuring your eardrum is whole and healthy. This is followed by a tone test to see how sensitive your ear is to different frequencies of tones (low pitch to middle and high pitches).

Next, your hearing is checked for speech awareness and clarity — how softly you can hear words and just barely make them out, and then how clear words are when they are loud enough to correct for any loss. The audiologist may also check to see what volume is most comfortable for listening to speech and at what point it becomes uncomfortable. These are your MCL and UCL levels.

The next test is bone conduction, which repeats the original tone test using a bone vibrator placed behind your ear instead of listening through the headphones. This checks to see if you have problems in the middle ear area causing a blockage. The final test is usually one to check for eardrum mobility, followed occasionally by a reflex tone test. Once all test are done you should ask the audiologist to explain the results and any recommendations they are making for follow-up care. In most states, hearing aid dispensers can ONLY do tests for the purpose of fitting hearing aids and not to rule out medical problems.

Ask for a referral

So don’t just go into the hearing aid store for that free hearing test you see advertised in the local paper. Instead, your best medical care is to ask your physician for a referral to their audiologist to get a complete evaluation. If your evaluation shows a hearing loss that does not require any further medical or surgical evaluation or treatment, then you can safely move on to getting hearing aids.