These measure hearing sensitivity at different frequencies, and can help your audiologist come up with a treatment plan geared toward your specific needs.
In order to determine the type and extent of hearing loss, a series of diagnostic tests are given as part of a complete hearing evaluation.
Benefits of Diagnostic Testing
When sound waves enter the ear, they are converted to electrical signals and transmitted to the brain for interpretation. The intensity and tone of each sound varies. Sounds that exceed 85 decibels are harmful to the ears, and can cause permanent hearing damage. This is why noise induced hearing loss is a growing problem.
Many individuals with hearing loss are unaware of their diminished hearing capacity. Changes usually occur gradually, and it is easy to become accustomed to a reduction in hearing ability. Older adults aren’t the only ones who benefit from diagnostic testing; early detection of hearing loss in newborns and toddlers can help stave off learning and behavior problems associated with hearing impairment.
Common Diagnostic Tests
The most common diagnostic tests for measuring hearing sensitivity are:
- Pure Tone Audiometry. Patients are given a pair of headphones and asked to respond to words and tones of varying frequencies and volume levels. The headphones are hooked up to an audiometer, a machine that charts the results on an audiogram. Any loss of frequency is easily detected. Pure Tone Audiometry enables the audiologist to determine the degree of hearing loss.
- Tuning Fork Tests. Two-pronged high frequency vibrating metal instruments called tuning forks are placed on a patient’s forehead, scalp or upper lip. When struck, the tuning fork vibrates and produces a tone. The patient’s response helps indicate the extent to which sound is able to travel through the ear.
- Speech reception and word recognition tests. Patients are given a series of words and asked to repeat them. Some will be spoken, others whispered. Their responses help to determine speech comprehension at varying volume levels.
- Auditory Brain Stem Response (ABR) testing. Electrodes are attached to a patient’s scalp and earlobes. They are used to measure neural activity in response to a series of clicking noises delivered through headphones. This helps the audiologist determine the type and extent of hearing loss.