What To Expect at Your Hearing Exam
Do you suspect that you are having hearing issues? Have you been asking people to repeat themselves, are you always turning up the TV volume, or have you been avoiding crowded events because you can’t hear well? You should get your hearing checked, as this is the first step in finding a solution to your hearing impairment. A hearing exam will reveal whether you have hearing loss, and how severe it is. Don’t let your hearing loss get worse, as it can negatively affect your life and your cognitive function. If you have been putting off a hearing exam because you are afraid of the process, learn what to expect at your hearing exam so you can be prepared. A hearing test is a gentle, non-invasive way to understand what is going on with your hearing, and to know how to find a solution—read on to find out more!
Even if you are just interested in getting your hearing checked, a general examination of your health history is important. Your healthcare professional will want to know your general physical condition, and if you have any genetic predispositions to hearing loss, or if hearing loss runs in your family. There are other medical conditions that could contribute to hearing loss, including: ear infections, colds, allergies, and even excess earwax. A blow to the head or injury to the ear could also cause hearing loss, and your practitioner will want to know what the cause of your hearing loss may be. You will also be asked about your general lifestyle to determine if you are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss, which is becoming increasingly common. Other symptoms you may be experiencing, such as balance issues, or even depression, could be linked to hearing impairment, and your provider will want to know about them. You should also talk about any medications you may be on, and if they are known to affect hearing. Writing down any concerns you have about your hearing before your appointment can help you remember crucial points when you talk with your practitioner, and will give them a more full picture of how your hearing loss is affecting you. Hearing is linked to so many aspects of overall health, that getting your general health history is crucial as the first step in any hearing exam.
Just looking at your ears is the very first, basic step in any hearing exam. Your healthcare professional will look for any signs of abnormalities or medical conditions that may be contributing to your hearing problems. Using an otoscope, they will examine the inside of your ears, and will be able to tell if you have a buildup of earwax that is contributing to your hearing loss. They might be able to see signs of trauma or injury, and will get another layer of information in determining why you are experiencing difficulty hearing.
Tympanography looks at the flexibility of the eardrum and its ability to transmit sound. This is a gentle test that uses a probe to raise and lower the pressure in your eardrum to create a graph of the pressure changes. Healthy eardrums usually have a single peak on their graph, but in an ear that is not functioning correctly the graph may have a flat line with almost no peak. This can happen with an ear infection when the eardrum is perforated, or you have other medical issues that are occurring. Your eardrum can also be overly flexible, and result in a taller than normal peak. This test gives a baseline for the function of your eardrum, and helps your practitioner use this information in combination with the rest of your exam to understand your hearing problems.
This portion of your exam will use recorded or live speech to test your hearing. Speech testing will find the softest level at which you can recognize simple words. The volume of the words will be reduced until you can only recognize them with 50 percent accuracy. This level is considered the threshold at which you are able to hear speech. Another component of speech testing is to repeat back spoken words, because a large problem for many hearing impaired individuals is not just hearing words, but understanding them. In this part of the test, known as word recognition testing, you will repeat words that are spoken to you through headphones, when the words are spoken at a normal volume. This test measures the amount of speech you can understand. These speech tests demonstrate in real time to your practitioner how you are able to hear spoken words, and how much difficulty you have understanding them.
This is probably the part of the hearing exam that will seem most familiar to you, and might bring you back to grade-school hearing and vision screenings. This tests the air and bone conduction in your ears through listening to a series of beeps through headphones. Your practitioner will play tones at varying sound volumes and frequencies and you will raise your hand or give some other signal to signify you have heard the tone. This also measures your hearing threshold, and gives a definitive picture of your hearing abilities. To measure your bone conduction, and uses the same process, but without the headphones. Instead, you will have a headband with small plastic pieces placed behind your ears that vibrate when the tones sound. This measures the sounds processed by the nerves directly, bypassing the eardrum and outer ear, and usually produces the same results as the air conduction. If they are not the same, it can indicate there is something blocking sound from travelling from the outer ear to the cochlear nerve. Again, your results could be affected by an ear infection, or earwax, and medication or surgery could be the answer. If there is no physical blockage, it may be time to start looking into hearing solutions.
Your results will be plotted on a graph called an audiogram. The results will be in decibels of hearing threshold level (dB HL), and are based on the perception of sound pressure. Each ear is plotted separately, and the two results may be almost identical, or very different if you have hearing loss in only one ear. The following categories are used to determine hearing loss:
- Normal hearing (0 to 25 dB HL)
- Mild hearing loss (26 to 40 dB HL)
- Moderate hearing loss (41 to 70 dB HL)
- Severe hearing loss (71 to 90 dB HL)
- Profound hearing loss (greater than 91 dB HL)
Finding out that you do indeed have hearing loss, and that it might be worse than you thought, is not fun for anyone. The upside of getting back a hearing test displaying a problem is that you will be armed with the information to do something about it.
When you have completed your hearing exam, and received your results, you are now armed with powerful information to be able to take action and find hearing solutions. At Factory Direct Hearing, all we need is this hearing exam to be able to program a new hearing aid exactly to your hearing needs. You can send us your information via email, fax, uploading it to our website, or through good, old-fashioned snail mail. Then, your hearing aids are sent directly to your door—no other doctor’s visits are needed! This is what makes Factory Direct Hearing so revolutionary, so easy, and so affordable! We have all of the best brands of hearing aids, including Widex, Oticon, Siemens/Signia, and ReSound, at a fraction of the cost you will pay for them elsewhere! If you have suspected that you are having hearing issues, don’t wait—get an exam today! You will be one step closer to a new hearing aid that can really help all aspects of your life. Interested to learn more? Browse our large selection of hearing aids, or read more about our process, and take charge of your hearing!