If the unfamiliar triggers anxiety, then a trip to the hearing specialist is particularly nerve-racking. While the majority of us have experience with the family physician and the town dentist, the visit to the hearing specialist may be a first.
It certainly would be useful to have someone summarize the process up front, wouldn’t it? Well, keep reading, because as you’ll discover, the process of getting your hearing examined is ordinarily easy, comfortable, and pain-free — with aspects that can actually be fun.
So here’s how it will go:
After you arrive at the office, you will check in with an employee at the front desk who will hand you a few forms to fill out. Not long after filling in the forms, a hearing specialist will come with you into a room to start 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 health history, and your hearing loss symptoms. Getting ready for this step is critical, because this is where you get to express to the hearing specialist the specifics of your hearing loss, what you are looking for from treatment, and your unique hearing needs.
This part is all about you: what do you want to accomplish with better hearing? Do you wish to play a music instrument again? Do you wish to be more engaged in work meetings? Do you want to be more energetic at social gatherings? The more you can reveal to your hearing specialist the better.
Next comes the testing.
Part 2: Otoscopy
The first diagnostic test to be carried out is called an otoscopy. An otoscope is used to visually explore the ear canal and eardrum to establish if your hearing loss is correlated to infections, earwax buildup, or obstructions. If the explanation for your hearing loss is something as elementary as earwax buildup, you could possibly start hearing better within a few minutes simply from expert earwax removal.
Part 3: Tympanometry
The following test is called tympanometry, used to test the eardrum and middle ear. A device is inserted into the ear that will modify the air pressure, evaluating how your ear responds to numerous pressures.
To understand this test, you have to first recognize that hearing loss falls into one of two general classes:
- Sensorineural hearing loss — this is the most widespread hearing loss. It is also referred to as noise-induced hearing loss and it involves destruction of the nerve cells of hearing.
- Conductive hearing loss — this hearing loss results from blockages or obstructions that restrict sound conduction before the sound hits the nerve cells of hearing.
Tympanometry is a test that can help to rule out conductive hearing loss, to make sure that there are no blockages, infections, or middle-ear-bone ailments. Conversely, Audiometry, which is described next, will quantify sensorineural hearing loss.
Part 4: Audiometry
The concluding group of tests will be completed in a soundproof room. These tests are collectively referred to as audiometry and will evaluate your hearing range and sensitivity. Audiometry is the best methodology to measure sensorineural hearing loss.
With the use of an audiometer, the hearing specialist will be ready to establish:
- Which frequencies you can hear well and which you have a hard time with.
- The minimum decibel levels, at multiple frequencies, at which you perceive sound.
- The precise measurements connected with your hearing loss (as captured on an audiogram).
- Your ability to comprehend speech, with or without background noise.
The test itself, from your perspective, will be comfortable and easy. You will be presented with sounds and speech through headsets and will be told to reveal when you can hear the sounds by pressing a button or raising your hand.
Reviewing results and planning treatment
Soon after the testing is complete, your hearing specialist will review 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 collaborate with you to pick the best solution for you, your budget, your lifestyle, and your aesthetic concerns.
Pretty painless for a lifetime of better hearing, isn’t it?