Hearing Test Appointment
What to Expect When You Attend an Appointment for a Hearing TestIt is possible that your family GP or an ENT surgeon may have referred you to an audiologist for a hearing test appointment, although no referral is actually necessary at Ear Institute clinics. If this is the case, it is equally likely that you may be a little concerned by the prospect and are, perhaps, uncertain as to exactly what this type of examination may involve. Firstly, it needs to be made perfectly clear that all audiological testing is of a totally non-invasive nature and so you can be confident that you will experience neither pain nor discomfort, either during or as a consequence of your examination.
Your next concern might be about the individual who will be conducting your examination. The science of audiology was established soon after the Second World War, in response to the needs of the many thousands of soldiers returning home who were affected by varying degrees of hearing loss. Today, this science is practiced by qualified healthcare professionals with at least a 4-year undergraduate qualification, and it is more than possible that the specialist who will be conducting your hearing test appointment may actually have earned a master’s degree.
Audiology is the study of hearing or, more specifically, of the extent to which it may deviate from the norm and the nature of any impairment detected. The examinations involved provide both a quantitative and qualitative measure of an individual’s ability to detect sounds within the range of human audibility. From the results of the examination, it is then possible for the audiologist to determine which might prove to be the most appropriate form of intervention for a given patient.
Before proceeding with the section of your appointment devoted to hearing tests, it is usual to conduct a preliminary physical examination of the ear. You will probably already be familiar with the instrument known as an otoscope. When inserted into the outer ear, it allows the user to view an illuminated and magnified image of the ear canal and eardrum. This might, for example, reveal signs of an infection or an excessive build-up of earwax, either of which could be interfering with your ability to hear clearly.
Although it is highly unlikely that a referring GP or specialist would have missed these signs, a non-referred subject may well display such symptoms, so treatment will be necessary before he or she can be offered a further hearing test appointment – a step that, even after successful treatment, could still prove to be of value. Whether all-clear initially or returning after irrigation or a course of antibiotics, the next step will be an audiogram.
This is a graphical representation of your ear’s ability to detect sounds at various wavelengths. The sounds are played sequentially via earphones fist to one ear and then the other. At each frequency, the volume will gradually be increased until you indicate that you can hear it when it is recorded on the graph. On completion, the resulting personalised hearing profile indicates the frequencies that are affected and the extent of the impairment.
Hearing loss is of two main types – conductive or sensorineural. The next objective of your hearing test appointment is thus to identify which may apply in your case. Along with the results of the audiograms, these additional studies will help to determine the most effective means with which to manage your hearing loss. Consisting of two tests, they employ nothing more sinister than a simple tuning fork. Most useful in cases of unilateral impairment, when both ears are effected, pure tone audiometry is regarded as the better option.
A routine procedure necessary when your hearing test appointment confirms impairment, the Rinne test compares the perceived volume of sound when the vibrating fork is placed on the mastoid bone with that when positioned close to the outer ear. When the volume via bone exceeds that via air, there is conductive loss, while the reverse finding indicates sensorineural deafness. In the Weber test, the base of the vibrating fork is placed high on the midline of your forehead and you will be asked whether it seems louder in one ear or the other. Although somewhat counterintuitive, in unilateral conductive hearing, it appears louder in the impaired ear, while if the unilateral loss is of sensorineural origin, it will be loudest in the good ear.
If you have any concerns, just call an Ear Institute clinic to arrange a hearing test appointment with a healthcare professional.