One of the most complicated aspects of diagnosing hearing loss is that it is hard to self-diagnose. Often it is people you communicate with daily who will recognize your loss. This is because hearing loss starts slowly, but this doesn’t mean that early hearing loss isn’t already beginning to impact your communication and your health. Recently researchers found that even a slight hearing loss can cause lower scores on cognitive tests. This is a signal that cognitive decline, commonly associated with hearing loss starts much earlier than previously understood. The sooner you diagnose and treat your hearing loss the better and this diagnosis begins with setting up a hearing test.
What to Expect
If you have recently set up a hearing test, then you may be wondering what to expect. The good news is that a hearing exam is most often quick and most definitely pain free. Not only will you understand the extent of your hearing loss, but your audiologist or hearing healthcare professional will have concrete information in order to find the best treatment for your specific degree of impairment.
Hearing History Interview
A hearing test begins with an interview. Your practitioner will interview you about the history of your listening practices. This can involve your career, you hobbies and what you do for recreation. They may also ask you about family history and past medical conditions such as infections which could have impacted your ears. This helps the audiologist understand what factors could affect your hearing as well as understand your lifestyle. Understanding your day to day can inform your doctor as to what sort of treatment will be most effective for you.
This portion of a hearing exam occurs in a soundproof booth or room where noise can be effectively controlled. This means that ambient sounds such as street traffic or the office air conditioner will not interfere with your results. You will be asked to wear headphones which will transmit different tones and pitches at different volumes and frequencies. Your audiologist will be able to speak with you over an intercom to ask you questions about different tones you can hear and from which ear.
Speech audiometry is another component of most hearing tests. This portion focuses on your ability to understand speech instead of simple tones. The Speech audiometry test will determine the softest speech sounds (threshold) you can hear and comprehend by asking you to repeat the speech back to your practitioner.
Speech In Noise Tests
While the previous tests can detect your hearing ability in a controlled environment, this test helps to detect what many in the hearing industry refer to as a hidden hearing loss. A hidden hearing loss is often missed by the first two tests because it only occurs in noisy environments, such as in a crowd or with a lot of background noise. These tests include the Connected Speech Test (CST), the Speech Perception in Noise test (SPIN), the Speech in Noise test (SIN or Quick SIN) and the Hearing in Noise Test (HINT). Even so, sometimes hearing loss occurs in the brain instead of the ears making these tests important. If you still feel you have a hearing loss even if you passed these tests your audiologist can still help.
Understanding your hearing test results
Test results are presented on a graph called an audiogram. This graph will display the softest sounds pitches and frequencies you can hear. Hearing loss is measured in decibels (dB) with a loss of ) to 25 dB considered normal hearing. Mild hearing loss spans form 26 – 40dB, Moderate from 41 – 70dB, Severe from 71 -90 dB and profound hearing loss 91 dB or greater. Your audiologist will explain the results of your audiogram and recommend your next steps of treatment.
The most common treatment for hearing loss are hearing aids which are programmed to amplify the specific sounds you struggle with based on your audiogram. These tiny and amazing devices can help you connect to the people in your life at work and at home, keeping you active and engaged. Don’t delay in taking the leap to invest in your hearing health and stay connected to the life and sounds you love.