A hearing evaluation isn’t the same thing you experienced at elementary school. Sure, we’ll do that test, too. But it’s just one part of a full hearing evaluation.
Your appointment lasts from 30 to 90 minutes. Bring a trusted loved one with you — that complementary perspective helps paint the complete picture of your hearing loss and its effects on you and your family. Plus, they can take notes to catch anything you might miss.
Getting to Know You
The more your provider knows about you, the more tailored your treatment plan can be. To start off, we review and discuss your medical history. We’ll start with issues like what hearing problems you commonly experience and how your hearing situation affects those around you.
But we don’t stop there! Other areas of your life will enter the conversation, such as your workplace, hobbies, activities, and family life. You might be surprised what aspects of your life could be the real culprit behind your hearing loss.
Inspecting Your Ears
Sometimes, treating hearing loss is as simple as a good ear cleaning! Thus, the next step in your appointment is an ear inspection. Done with something called an otoscope, the inspection reveals whether something such as earwax, fluid, or debris is blocking your ear canal. It also lets your provider see whether your ear canal or eardrum is damaged.
The next step is a battery of diagnostic tests. This determines the degree and type of your hearing loss as well as the health of your middle and inner ear. Your age, symptoms, and medical history inform which tests are needed. But you can count on receiving the first three tests.
Pure-tone air-conduction test
This test is what’s often called a hearing screening. Wearing headphones, you listen for tones and indicate which ones you can hear. This test measures the quietest sounds you can hear.
Your provider puts a small device behind your ear or on your forehead. Sounds are sent through this device that create gentle vibrations in your skull. The vibrations skip your outer and middle ear and go straight to your inner ear. This tells your provider whether there’s a problem in your outer or middle ear.
Wearing headphones, you’ll hear words and then repeat them. This measures how well you hear and understand words at different volumes.
Placing a probe at the end of your ear canal, your provider painlessly uses air-pressure changes to see how well your eardrum moves whether there’s a hole in it.
Otoacoustic emissions test
Using a different kind of probe, your provider sends a sound into your ear canal. How your inner ear responds tells your provider critical information about some very tiny cells that are crucial to your hearing ability.
Discussing Next Steps
Treatment options are based on the results of the previous steps in the evaluation. No two hearing losses are the same, so no two solutions are, either.
Next, you discuss the finding from your examination and diagnostic tests. You learn whether you have hearing loss, what type, and what your options are moving forward. For example, if your provider found physical damage to your ear, you might need a referral an ear specialist.
Deciding on technology
If technology is your best option, you and your provider will work together to determine what style and level of technology best supports your needs.
For example, you might need technology that filters out lots of background noise, whereas someone else might not. Some people’s ear canals accommodate completely-in-the-canal technology. Others don’t.
An Active Participant
This process is all about you. Ask questions and be candid. Hearing care is a relationship, not a purchase. Active participation leads to satisfying hearing health outcomes!