How is hearing loss diagnosed?
An audiologist can do tests to learn how well you can hear and listen and will look for problems in your outer, middle and inner ear. An otoscope may be used. This is an instrument that has a light and magnifying glass in it. An audiologist will look at your ear canal and eardrum to see if they are OK. Many tests may be done to learn about hearing loss. Some common tests for hearing loss are:
These tests may be called pure-tone audiometry and speech audiometry. They help measure the faintest sounds or speech that you can hear. They help measure how well you can recognize words when spoken at a normal sound level. You will sit in a small soundproof room. The room will have special panels on the ceiling, walls and floor to make it very quiet.
An audiometer may be used, which sends sounds to your ears that are high and low pitched, and loud and soft in volume. The sounds will come through earphones, or through a small speaker in the room. You may be asked to lift a hand or finger, or push a button when you hear a sound. You may be asked to repeat words or point to a picture when you hear words. The audiologist may send sounds through a small vibrating button placed behind your ear or on your forehead. Your test results will be put on a chart called an audiogram.
Acoustic immittance measures:
Acoustic immittance measures are a group of tests. They can help audiologists learn more about your middle ear and eardrum. In a test called tympanometry, a small probe may be placed into your ear canal. Air is pushed through the probe into your ear to learn how well your eardrum moves. Results of this test are put on a chart called a tympanogram. This test can show fluid in the middle ear, a hole in the eardrum or wax build-up. Other tests may measure the amount of air in your ear canal. They may measure the way a tiny muscle in your ear reacts to loud sounds.
Hearing assessment is used to quantify and qualify hearing ability with respect to the degree of hearing loss, the type of hearing loss and the configuration of hearing loss.
Audiological evaluation can also be carried out for purposes of monitoring an already identified hearing loss. An audiologic evaluation consists of a battery of tests, with each test providing complementary and specific stand-alone information.
It typically includes a case history, a physical examination of the ear, tests of hearing and listening involving pure-tone and speech stimuli, and tests of middle ear function. Sometimes, specialized electrophysiological tests are employed to give more-specific information about the status of the neural pathways used in hearing. Once a complete audiologic assessment has been completed, a treatment and management plan can be put in place. This plan may include medical intervention, monitoring of hearing or use of amplification.
How is hearing loss treated?
Your caregivers will use test results to help them understand about your hearing loss. Treatment will depend on the how much hearing loss you have, the cause, and the type of hearing loss you have. Treatments may include:
- Remove the cause of your hearing loss: For example, if your ear is plugged with earwax or an object, your doctor will remove it. The doctor may change or stop certain medicines if they think the medicines are causing your hearing loss.
- Hearing aids: A hearing aid is a small device that fits inside your ear. Hearing aids may help you hear better while you are wearing them. Work with your audiologist to decide which hearing aid is best for you.
- Assistive listening devices (ALDs): These devices are like small radios that pick up sound and bring it to you. ALDs may help you hear better when watching TV, sitting in a classroom or listening to a speaker. You may use earphones or a headset to receive (hear) the sound that the device sends to you. ALDs for phones and doorbells may use flashing lights or vibrators to let you know they are ringing. People with or without hearing aids may use ALDs to help them hear better.
- Cochlear implant: This is a tiny device that is put into your cochlea (a part of your inner ear) during surgery. This device is only given to people with sensorineural hearing loss. These people are very hard of hearing in both ears and are not helped by hearing aids.
- Antibiotic medicine: This medicine may be given if you have an ear infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your doctor. Stopping antibiotics without your doctor's OK may make the medicine unable to kill the germs causing your infection.
- Surgery. If your hearing loss is caused by problems such as otosclerosis or a tumor, you may need surgery. People who need ear tubes to help prevent ear infections may also need surgery.
For more information about DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital’s audiology and hearing services or to make an appointment, call 313-966-4725.