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Diagnostic Audiologic Evaluations

If you or your child has been referred for a diagnostic audiologic evaluation, it means that hearing loss needs to be further examined and determined. The diagnostic audiologic evaluation is usually for individuals who did not pass the initial hearing screening.

The evaluation is done to determine the type and severity of the hearing loss that may be present, as well as to further assess the hearing disorder. It also allows the audiologist to provide guidance to the patient/family and recommend appropriate services.

What Tests Will Be Done?

The specific tests done during the evaluation will depend on the patient, their age, and what is known already about their hearing loss. These various tests will determine things such as the degree of hearing damage, what type of hearing damage is present, the health of the ear canal, and the health of the middle ear. The audiologist will also want to determine if hearing change is conductive (middle or outer ear) or sensorineural (inner ear, in the central processing center of the brain).

The three top tests that are performed during diagnostic audiologic evaluations are pure-tone testing, bone conduction testing, and speech testing.

Pure-tone and Bone Conduction Testing

Pure-tone air conduction testing determines the quietest tones that a person can hear at different frequencies, both low and high. Bone conduction testing is similar to pure-tone conduction testing. A different type of headphone is used during bone conduction testing, as it evaluates the function of the inner ear and hearing nerve.

Speech Testing

A speech reception threshold (SRT) test is often used with older children and adults to confirm the results of a pure-tone test. This test determines the patients ability to recognize speech in quiet or noisy environments, and measures their ability to repeat back what they have heard.

The audiologist may also perform an otoscopy and tympanometry to determine the health of the ear canal and the middle ear.

Specialized tests exist for infants and young children, as well as children and adults with developmental and cognitive impairments. These mores specialized tests allow the audiologist to receive feedback and information, even when the patient is not able to actively participate in the tests or evaluation.

Other tests may include:

  • Auditory brain stem response (ABR) and auditory steady-state response (ASSR) testing
  • Atoacoustic emissions screening
  • Visual reinforcement and play audiometry for children

The diagnostic audiologic evaluation is important to have as soon as you find that you or your child may suffer form hearing loss. It is the first step in finding out exactly what hearing loss may be present and how to deal with it to improve quality of life. For many, it is often the first step on a life-long journey to managing hearing loss.
Along with the evaluation, you should expect to sit down with an audiologist to discuss the results. He can interpret the tests for you, answer all of your questions, provide you with referrals to specialists and related patient/family counseling, and provide treatment planning.

Audiologists are used to lots of questions regarding evaluations, tests, and various types of hearing loss. Never hesitate to ask for clarification on anything you do not understand.