A hearing assessment is a non-invasive procedure which is tailored to the needs of each patient but must contain certain fundamental tests.
The objective of the hearing assessment is to identify whether there is a hearing or listening problem and if so, to identify what the cause of the hearing loss may be. If the cause of the hearing loss is found to be temporary, such as in the case of ear wax, fluid or infection, the patient will be referred for medical treatment. However if the hearing loss seems to be more permanent, the Audiologist will provide you with other options for rehabilitation.
The most important aim of an assessment is to identify the impact that the hearing problem is having on a patient’s ability to communicate and to provide a personalised guide for management.
What to expect at your first meeting
The first time you visit an Audiologist or Acoustician, you are in for a pleasant experience that is interesting and informative. You will gain an understanding of your hearing, identify any needs you may have and explore possible solutions. Bring someone with you. Most people find it helpful to bring a spouse, family member or friend to their first visit. You will get more out of your visit if someone close to you shares in the experience.What to expect at your first visit:
You will be talking about your hearing and health history with your Audiologist or Acoustician.
Discuss your concerns regarding your hearing needs, situations and sounds that you have difficulty with in your everyday life.
Your hearing assessment will include a variety of evaluation tasks depending on your concerns. The hearing assessment may include but is not limited to:
- An otoscopic examination which includes a physical examination of the ear canal and ear drum,
- Tympanometry (a pressure-tone test) and acoustic reflex testing (elicited by safe, louder sound) to view the efficiency of the middle ear system and the pathway of sound through the lower brainstem.
- Pure tone audiometry, which is the traditional testing that most people are familiar with, where you will be asked to respond to tones which change in pitch and loudness. This can be done in a soundproof booth or with specially calibrated testing headphones; with ear phones, ear inserts and a bone conductor device. It provides information regarding your threshold of hearing.
- Speech audiometry in both quiet and in the presence of background sound to obtain a better understanding of how your brain identifies speech at different levels and in different situations.
- The results obtained from the pure tone are recorded on an audiogram, and the speech audiometry testing shows a speech clarity result.
Auditory processing tasks which provide information regarding how your brain processes auditory information.
By completing these assessment tasks, the Audiologist or Acoustician gains insight into your hearing ability and can provide you with the most appropriate guidelines for management.
After the assessment is completed, your Audiologist or Acoustician will explain your results to you. You should understand whether you have a hearing loss or not. If you do have a hearing loss, you should gain an understanding about the significance of it, the type of hearing loss you have, and options for optimum management.
Signs and Symptoms of a Hearing or Listening Problem
You should see an audiologist or acoustician as soon as you can if you experience:
1) Increased difficulty in hearing clearly in the presence of other, competing sound, such as a noisy restaurant or if a radio or television is on in the same room.
2) A need to ask for repetition more often than other people.
3) You find that speech is not clear.
4) You need to increase the volume of television, radio or phone.
5) You have difficulty understanding people with accents.
6) You need to lean forward during a conversation, especially in noise.
7) You having difficulty judging the direction of sound.
8) Your hearing does not feel the same on both sides.
9) You notice a new or unusual symptom, including:
10) You hear constant sound in one or both ears that does not go away
11)You become highly sensitive to sound
12)You experiencing sensations of blockage in one or both ears
13)You experience dizziness
14)You become very irritated with specific sounds to the extent that they disrupt your normal quality of life.
15) You experience unusual fatigue in noisy places or become reluctant to go out and enjoy a normal level of social interaction (compared to your normal desires).
16) You have a family history of hearing loss
If you experience pain or discharge in one or both of your ears, see your medical doctor for treatment, but have your hearing checked afterwards.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that by 2050, there will be more than 900 million people living with disabling hearing loss (https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss).
Reconnect Audiology Network supports the general practice of testing hearing at birth; once a year throughout childhood until the early twenties; at least once every decade between 20 and 50, and then every third year after 50 (assuming hearing is experienced as ‘normal’ by the person). In cases where hearing loss has been diagnosed, we recommend annual testing regardless of age.
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