Hearing Evaluations & Testing
Prior to testing, the audiologist will determine if testing can be completed safely and accurately. Earphones will be placed into the ear canals to perform testing. Hearing tests are then performed to determine if a hearing loss exists and what type of loss it is. The type and configuration of the loss can also add insight to the appropriate diagnosis of balance disorders as well. The patient will be asked to respond to tones presented through the earphones (air conduction testing) and sounds transmitted through the skull (bone conduction testing). The degree of loss will be determined through this test. Many times a patient will be asked to repeat a series of words to determine the clarity of the sounds they hear. Hearing screenings with infants and toddlers may be performed through speakers rather than through the ear canal.
Otoacoustic Emissions Testing (OAE)
Otoacoustic emissions are sounds that are generated from within the inner ear. OAEs disappear after the inner ear has been damaged and therefore are used to measure inner ear health. Clinically they are important because they are the basis of a simple yet non-invasive test for hearing defects. This test is particularly good to evaluate hearing deficits in newborn babies, in children who are too young for conventional testing, or for those who are unable to do traditional testing.
During this test, the audiologist places the tip of a hand-held instrument in the opening of the ear. This instrument changes the air pressure inside the ear. This measurement can demonstrate if there is fluid behind the eardrum or if an ear tube is working or blocked. It also indicates how the bones in the middle ear are working. This information is used in conjunction with the hearing test and physician’s physical exam to determine what is happening with a patient’s middle ear.