If you suspect you may have a hearing loss, it is worthwhile to have your hearing assessed by a diagnostic audiologist. Hearing loss can occur gradually over time and depending on the degree of hearing loss, some sounds remain audible and other sounds can become more difficult to hear.
You may have no difficulty hearing one-to-one conversations in a quiet environment with visual cues, however as soon as there is background noise present and you don’t have the speaker in full view, it becomes more difficult to hear. This is very common with a mild age-related hearing loss or high frequency hearing loss. The wearing of masks has made it more difficult to hear because we rely on visual cues to follow conversation.
Some hearing losses can also occur suddenly, literally overnight and when this happens, urgent attention is required as immediate treatment can reverse the hearing loss. Read here for more information on Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSNHL).
Based on the type of hearing loss, there are a range of treatment options including surgery and hearing aids. When the hearing loss can be treated surgically Beacon Audiology will refer you to an Ear Nose & Throat Consultant for further management. Read here for more information on hearing aids at Beacon Audiology
Video otoscopy allows the visual examination of the ear canal and ear drum. The image (which can be printed) is displayed on a screen for you to see and can be of assistance in identifying physical abnormalities related to your hearing loss.
Tympanometry is used to evaluate the movement of the eardrum and status of the middle ear. It is useful in determining if the middle ear has abnormal air pressure, detecting the presence of fluid that may be related to a variety of conditions including certain ear infections or even allergies (glue ear), a perforation or dislocation of the ossicular bones in the middle ear.
Tympanometry is not a hearing test, and the results of this test should always be viewed in conjunction with pure tone audiometry.
Pure-tone Audiometry. A comprehensive hearing assessment consists of several tests. First, we determine the softest sound that can be heard by using earphones. This is called air conduction testing. The next test performed is bone conduction testing. A bone vibrator is placed behind the ear to determine the softest sound that can be heard when stimulating the inner ear directly (bypassing the outer ear and middle ear).
Information obtained from these two tests helps to determine the type of hearing loss.
A conductive loss (hearing loss due to problems in the outer and/or middle ear)
A sensorineural loss (hearing loss due to problems in the inner ear—cochlea and auditory nerve)
A mixed loss (a combination of both conductive and sensorineural). The information from these two tests also allows the audiologist to determine the severity of the hearing loss
Otoacoustic emissions (OAE)
Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) testing is used to assess the integrity of the outer hair cells in the cochlea (inner ear). A probe tip is placed in the ear and a series of sounds are presented. No behavioural response or co-operation is required. Responses produced by the cochlea are recorded and the test only takes 20-30 seconds. This is a quick, easy and objective test used to assess cochlear function and to rule out the possibility of a hearing loss.
Speech audiometry in conjunction with pure-tone audiometry can aid in determining the degree and type of hearing loss. Speech audiometry provides information regarding an individual's speech discrimination abilities at various intensities as well as the impact that the hearing loss has on audibility and clarity.
It also provides information regarding discomfort or tolerance to speech stimuli and recognition abilities. Speech-in-noise (SIN) testing is also an important component of speech audiometry. Speech-in-noise testing is relevant as listening to speech in the presence of ambient noise is one of the most common complaints that individuals have, particularly when there is a hearing loss present.
Speech-in-Noise testing gives the audiologist valuable information when deciding what hearing aid technology should be recommended for each and every individual patient. Speech-in-noise testing is quick and easy. This information can be helpful in predicting success of hearing aid use. Examples of Speech-in-Noise tests are BKB Sentences and the QuickSin test.
Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR/BSER)
ABR is a screening test for hearing loss or deafness, especially notable for its use difficult to test adults and children. It is a method to assess the auditory pathways and brainstem function in response to auditory stimuli. ABR is a safe and painless test.
ABR is performed when the adult is asleep or in a resting state. Electrodes are applied to the adult's head and insert earphones are used to provide the sounds. Neurological responses are recorded in response to the sounds presented. The test takes approximately one hour.