COLORADO SPRINGS — In a recent story we talked about the common signs of hearing loss. Some people may put off getting their hearing checked for a number of reasons, including uncertainty of what happens during a hearing diagnostic.
The first thing to understand is that a full diagnostic is much more than a simple hearing screening that is basically a “pass” or “fail” exam based on a series of beeps or tones.
Stacey Longoria, Au.D. a Doctor of Audiology with Hearing Consultants in Colorado Springs explains, “Initially when somebody comes in, we start with a pretty in-depth case history. We want to learn about the patient what kind of noise exposure they have had. We want to know about any type of cancer, or chemotherapy history and any family history of hearing loss.”
The next step is to look closely in the ear to see if wax or anything is interfering with hearing.
Then Longoria says, “We go into the sound booth and test the eardrums. Part of the overall diagnostic evaluation is looking beyond (someone hearing tones or beeps) and just pressing the button. It's looking at the Integrity of the eardrum and ruling out any type of fluid behind it, or any type of perforations that might not be visible by the naked eye. We do a pressure test and I explain it to patients that it’s like when you're going up into the mountains or in an airplane, you have that sensation of pressure change as we check the eardrum movement itself.”
If there is fluid behind the eardrum, it doesn’t automatically mean there is an infection says Longoria. “Sometimes you can have fluid behind the eardrum that's actually not infected. We can see that with kiddos that might have a speech delay. If a child has a speech delay and they have fluid behind in there that's not infected, they're never going to tell their mom or dad that they are having a problem hearing because it's not painful.”
Next Longoria says they look at the outer ear with two tests that measure the health and function of the small hairs that line the ear called cilia and none of it is painful. “They sit there and relax and listen to some sounds first, that goes pretty fast and it gives us an idea of the overall integrity of those outer hair cells.”
Then Longoria says they take a close look at the health of the inner ear. “We do that with something called bone conduction. It's a headband that sits behind the ear on the mastoid and we test those beeps through the mastoid. It bypasses the outer and the middle ear and it tells us the sight of the hearing loss. If it’s coming from the inner ear it is more severe sensorineural hearing loss, or it’s something that's coming from the middle ear. Maybe the middle ear bones aren't moving like they should, or us something blocking the sound. It allows us to figure out where the hearing loss is so we can recommend the most appropriate treatment.”
Longoria also says a hearing diagnostic also will measure someone’s understanding of what they are hearing. “We also do speech discrimination testing breaking up hearing from understanding, that's two different things. Somebody can hear a sound and hear somebody speaking, but is the brain able to understand it? We have a patient a listen to a long list of words and we essentially grade it to determine their understanding ability. For example, somebody might be able to repeat back 100% of the words, and somebody else could only repeat back 50% of those words. Those two people can be very successful with treatment but somebody with a 100% percent understanding is going to understand more.”
If you have questions about having a hearing diagnostic, you can contact the folks at Hearing Consultants of Colorado Springs.
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