Hearing Loss Test

Why You Might Need a Hearing Loss Test and What It Involves

As humans approach the latter years of their third decade, their auditory efficiency tends to commence a natural process of decline. Known as presbycusis, the process is generally a very gradual one, and it may only be after retirement that its effects become sufficiently troublesome to warrant seeking some professional attention. Unfortunately, over the years, advances in technology and its effects on our lifestyle have led to many additional sources of auditory impairment. Even more unfortunately, their ill-effects are independent of age and tend to require far less time before damage becomes apparent. A hearing loss test will be the only way to be certain you are not among those who have already been affected to some degree.

Although contributing to its increase, technology is not solely to blame for impaired audition. In addition to the fact that some children are deaf from birth, ear infections, when left untreated, have long been recognised as one of its potential causes. Only when penicillin became more widely available during the latter years of World War II, did it become possible to treat those whose infections were bacterial in nature with unprecedented success. Ironically, though, some of the antibiotics discovered, among them streptomycin and gentamicin, have subsequently been known to actually cause hearing loss in some cases.

This so-called ototoxic property is one shared by a number of common medications, including certain diuretics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as paracetamol and the anti-malarial compound quinine. Several chemicals, such as lead, mercury, toluene, hexane, xylene, and carbon monoxide, as well as various pesticides and herbicides to which workers are regularly exposed to, are also implicated. In addition to exercising the recommended handling precautions, anyone who is required to work with these on a regular basis would be well-advised to attend their nearest audiology clinic for a hearing loss test from time to time.

Even though one may not take any of the implicated medications or work with chemicals, the risk of auditory impairment, whether at work, in the home, or outdoors, still remains. In these cases, the potential threat may not be chemical, but physical in nature. With the rise of the machine and the rapid growth of industry, noise pollution has reached the point where legislation to limit it has become necessary. It is not any annoyance caused by the intrusive nature of sound that has prompted the new rules as much as the established link between sustained exposure to loud noises and permanent hearing loss. This suggests that an occasional test might be a wise precaution, regardless of one’s occupation or medicinal choices.

A normal conversation generates about 60 dB, while to get you out of bed on time in the morning, your alarm clock blasts out at about 80 dB. However, because noise is measured on a logarithmic scale, the alarm is not 25% louder, but one hundred times louder than a friendly chat. 85 dB is regarded as the danger level, and just eight hours of continuous exposure to sounds this loud can result in irreversible damage. Given that a live rock band can rack up around 110 dB and a MP3 player just a little less at 100 dB, could you or your children be in need of a hearing loss test and what would that entail?

It will begin with patient history information and thereafter an otoscopic examination to check for anything that might require the attention of a doctor or an ENT specialist, after which the next step will be to conduct a hearing loss test. This is designed to measure the decibels (dB) at which the sound of selected frequencies is audible to the subject being tested. The procedure is non-invasive and painless, simply requiring the subject to listen to a series of tones, and press a button when a tone is heard, no matter how soft or loud the tone might be. Each ear is tested separately, and the results are expressed as a graph on an audiogram of intensity in dB against frequency in Hz, which serves to highlight any frequencies that may have been affected.

Included in the battery of tests are the tuning fork tests. Tuning fork tests are screening tests and do not replace formal audiometry. They provide a reliable clinical method for assessing hearing loss. They help determine whether you may have conductive or sensorineural hearing loss. Tuning fork tests are simple, can be done in the office, and are easy to perform.
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