Hearing evaluations begin with a review of your medical history. Your audiologist will ask you questions related to your hearing, and will physically examine your ears using an otoscope.
Following these steps, a series of hearing tests designed to measure sensitivity to different frequencies will be administered, with the results plotted on a chart called an audiogram. Tests may include some or all of the following:
- Pure Tone Audiometry Test. During this test, you will wear earphones and identify a series of tones of varying frequencies and volume directed to one ear at a time. This is used to measure the threshold of your hearing range.
- Word Recognition Test. This measures your ability to separate speech from background noise, and is a useful test for determining whether hearing aids will be of benefit.
- Tympanometry. This test measures movement of the eardrum in response to changes in air pressure. It is used to measure how your ear reacts to different sounds and pressures, and can help an audiologist detect problems such as impacted earwax, fluid in the middle ear, perforated eardrum, and tumors.
- Acoustic Reflex Test. Measures involuntary muscle contractions of the middle ear when exposed to sound. Unusual responses can indicate problems with the ossicles, cochlea, auditory nerve, facial nerve, or brain stem.
- Bone Conduction Test. A bone conduction oscillator is placed behind the ear, allowing tones to bypass the outer and middle ears and go directly to the inner ear. This is helpful in determining whether hearing loss is conductive (related to problems in the outer or middle ear) or sensorineural (the result of inner ear dysfunction).