According to several studies, the number of people with hearing loss in the United States is steadily increasing. Some reports have projected that the number of Americans with hearing loss will increase to 40 million by 2025 and 53 million by 2050. Only a fraction of people with hearing loss seek treatment, but those who do report dramatic improvements in their quality of life. If you know or even suspect you have less than normal hearing, a hearing evaluation, also known as a hearing test, is the first step to better hearing.
A visit to one of our audiologists will determine the extent of hearing loss and provide consultation for deciding the best solution for your individual hearing needs. We understand the apprehension you may feel about having your hearing tested and want you to know exactly what to expect during your evaluation. We hope the following information helps put your mind at ease, but as always if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.
What is an Audiologist?
An audiologist is a professional who diagnoses, treats, and manages patients with ear problems such as hearing loss or balance problems. The audiologists at Cornerstone Ear, Nose, and Throat, PA have earned their Doctorate of Audiology degree (Au.D.). They have completed extensive academic and clinical training in the field and are licensed nationally and in the state of North Carolina. In addition to diagnosing and testing the function of the ear, our audiologists’ training provides a solid foundation for managing patients of all ages with ear problems. For example, audiologists are sometimes called upon to counsel families through a new diagnosis of hearing loss in an infant or help teach coping and compensation skills to hearing-impaired children and adults. They dispense and fit hearing aids as part of a comprehensive rehabilitative program. As a primary hearing health provider, audiologists refer patients to our ear, nose, and throat physicians when the hearing or balance problem requires medical or surgical evaluation or treatment. At CornerStone Ear, Nose and Throat, PA we believe that optimal healthcare of ear problems is provided when audiologists and otolaryngologists (ENT doctors) work together.
Why Should I Have My Hearing Tested?
Hearing loss affects so many aspects of life. You may not understand or may misunderstand a loved one’s voice, your favorite program on television, or a phone conversation. You may even think you heard “just fine” only to find out the person speaking did not say what you thought they did. For someone who has a gradual onset of hearing loss, simple everyday activities can become frustrating or even embarrassing. Over time, hearing loss leads to social isolation and becomes disruptive to relationships with family and friends. A growing body of research has even established a link between untreated hearing loss and increased risk of dementia, as well as increased risk of falling in the elderly.
Cornerstone Ear, Nose & Throat, PA offers comprehensive services for detecting and correcting hearing loss in adults and children. With a combination of board certified ENT physicians and Doctors of Audiology, we offer surgical and non-surgical options for hearing loss all at one practice. Our certified audiologists have extensive training and knowledge to provide a thorough and accurate hearing examination to you or our loved one, using state of the art equipment. Once your hearing has been tested, we will make the proper recommendations to optimize your hearing, whether it is medical, surgical, or amplification with a hearing aid.
Why do I need a hearing test if I am dizzy?
The importance of having a hearing test when referred for imbalance or dizziness.
Balance is in part controlled by the vestibular system which is contained in the inner ear. The main organ for hearing, the cochlea, is also contained in the inner ear. Because these organs are both housed within the temporal bone space and share fluids, there are many disorders of the vestibular system that will present with both hearing and balance symptoms.
A comprehensive audiologic evaluation is obtained on every patient who is referred to Cornerstone Ear, Nose, and Throat for issues with dizziness or vertigo. The results of the hearing test are crucial to aid the physician in the diagnosis and management of a patient’s dizziness. It can provide information regarding the hearing and balance system and help to pinpoint a possible disorder or even rule out particular causes for one’s balance disturbances.
What happens during a hearing evaluation?
A hearing evaluation will begin with a discussion between you and the audiologist about your hearing concerns. We will ask about any history of ear surgeries, ear infections, or excessive noise exposure that you may have had. We will use an otoscope (a lighted instrument) to look in your ear. In doing this, we are checking to see the overall status and health of your ear canal and eardrum and being sure that there are no blockages in the ear canal prior to testing.
Next, we will conduct tympanometry. This is a test of the middle ear status. It is a very simple and easy test in which a probe is placed in your ear and air pressure is increased and then decreased. This allows us to see in graph form how mobile your middle ear is. Through this test, we can diagnose middle ear fluid or pressure and also determine if an ear drum is intact.
You will then be directed into a sound booth. This allows you to take your test in an environment that is free from distraction. The audiologist will place earphones in your ears and give you some basic instructions. Throughout the test, you will be instructed to repeat words back and also to respond when you hear tones. Each ear is tested individually. You will indicate when you hear a tone by raising your hand or pushing a button. You will also be tested by bone conduction. A small bone vibrator will be placed behind your ear. With this device the sound is transmitted through the bone to the cochlea, bypassing the middle and outer ear. This will determine what type of hearing loss, if any, is present.
With these measures, a comprehensive audiogram is generated. An audiogram is essentially a graph of your hearing. It represents, from low pitch to high pitch, the lowest possible sound you can detect. The audiogram shows us the type, degree, and configuration of the hearing loss. With this information, we are able to make the proper recommendations for you.
Hearing can be tested at any age, from birth to adulthood. The test methods that are used vary depending on a patient’s age and cognitive ability. Cornerstone Ear, Nose & Throat specializes in pediatric hearing evaluations in addition to adult evaluations. For more information on how a hearing evaluation is conducted on the pediatric population, please refer to our pediatric section.