If the unknown provokes anxiety, then a visit to the hearing specialist is particularly stressful. While the majority of us have experience with the family doctor and the town dentist, the trip to the hearing specialist could be a first.
It sure would be helpful to have someone explain the process ahead of time, wouldn’t it? Well, continue reading, because as you’ll find out, the process of getting your hearing evaluated is almost always simple, comfortable, and pain-free — with portions that can actually be fun.
So here’s how it will go:
Just after you arrive at the office, you will check in with a staff member at the front desk who will give you a couple of forms to fill out. Soon after completing the forms, a hearing specialist will accompany you into a room to get started on the hearing assessment, which is composed of four parts:
Part 1: Case History
The hearing specialist starts the process by getting to know you, your medical history, and your hearing loss symptoms. Getting ready for this step is critical, because this is where you get to tell the hearing specialist the specifics of your hearing loss, what you are expecting from treatment, and your unique hearing needs.
This part is all about you: what do you want to achieve with superior hearing? Do you have the desire to play a music instrument again? Do you want to be more engaged in work meetings? Do you want to be more active at social gatherings? The more you can relay to your hearing specialist the better.
Next comes the testing.
Part 2: Otoscopy
The initial diagnostic test to be completed is referred to as an otoscopy. An otoscope is used to visually explore the ear canal and eardrum to determine if your hearing loss is connected with infections, earwax buildup, or blockages. If the reason behind your hearing loss is something as uncomplicated as earwax buildup, you could possibly begin hearing better within moments simply from expert earwax removal.
Part 3: Tympanometry
The next test is known as tympanometry, used to test the eardrum and middle ear. A device is inserted into the ear that will adjust the air pressure, evaluating how your ear responds to various pressures.
To understand this test, you have to first understand that hearing loss falls into one of two broad classes:
- Sensorineural hearing loss — this is the most widespread hearing loss. It is also described as noise-induced hearing loss and it involves injury of the nerve cells of hearing.
- Conductive hearing loss — this hearing loss results from blockages or obstructions that restrict sound conduction before the sound gets to the nerve cells of hearing.
Tympanometry is a test that can help to rule out conductive hearing loss, to be sure that there are no blockages, infections, or middle-ear-bone problems. Conversely, Audiometry, which is outlined next, will measure sensorineural hearing loss.
Part 4: Audiometry
The concluding group of tests will be conducted in a soundproof room. These tests are jointly referred to as audiometry and will evaluate your hearing range and sensitivity. Audiometry is the best means to measure sensorineural hearing loss.
With the use of an audiometer, the hearing specialist will be able to pinpoint:
- Which frequencies you can hear clearly and which you have a tough time with.
- The minimum decibel levels, at multiple frequencies, at which you perceive sound.
- The precise calculations correlated with your hearing loss (as documented on an audiogram).
- Your ability to comprehend speech, with or without background noise.
The test on its own, from your point of view, will be comfortable and straightforward. You will be presented with sounds and speech through headsets and will be requested to show when you can hear the sounds by pressing a button or lifting your hand.
Assessing results and planning treatment
Soon after the testing is complete, your hearing specialist will go over your results with you. If your hearing loss requires medical or surgical treatment (due to infections or middle-ear-bone problems, for instance), your hearing specialist can make the appropriate referral.
If your hearing loss can benefit from assistive listening devices or hearing aids, your hearing specialist will work with you to pick the optimum solution for you, your finances, your lifestyle, and your aesthetic considerations.
Pretty painless for a lifetime of better hearing, isn’t it?