In the internet-driven world we live in, it is common for everything to be offered online. Is this always a good thing?
If you clicked on this link, you are wondering about hearing testing and if it is ok to have completed online? The fact of the matter is, that online hearing tests are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and equipment is not calibrated and can give unreliable results. Therefore, it is always a better idea to get testing completed by a licensed professional in the area of hearing healthcare.
When should you get your hearing tested by a hearing healthcare provider?
There is no set rule on when to get you hearing tested by a healthcare provider. However, due to the underlying health effects associated with hearing loss, (i.e. increase risk of falling, increase incidence of dementia, increase risk of isolation and depression) it is a good idea to get a baseline test during adulthood and then annual checkups.
Hearing loss is often very gradual and not sudden. This makes it hard for someone to realize there is even a problem. If you do experience a sudden hearing loss, you need to see a physician as soon as possible for this can be reversible if follow-up occurs soon enough after initial onset.
Additionally, if you notice you are having any tinnitus (ringing in your ears, head noise), increased difficulty hearing speech, increased difficulty hearing in background noise, the TV is turned up louder than a loved one prefers, or any other hearing trouble you should see a hearing healthcare provider for a full hearing test.
What does a full hearing test completed by a hearing healthcare provider tell me?
Having a full hearing test completed not only shows whether or not you have a hearing loss, but how severe the hearing loss is and of what origin.
Certain types of hearing loss can be treated medically, and it is important to know that before purchasing a hearing aid. There are three types of hearing loss that can occur. They are outlines below:
This is a hearing loss that is common with aging or long-term noise exposure (i.e., working around farm equipment). The small hair cell structures in the very most inner ear have been damaged and are no longer sending a proper signal to the brain. Therefore certain frequency/pitch sounds you may not hear anymore, speech may not sound as clear, and it may be hard hearing in a restaurant or areas with background noise. This type of hearing loss is not medically treatable and is typically rehabilitated with hearing aids.
A conductive hearing loss is when there is a problem with the transduction of sound to the inner ear. In other words, the sound is being blocked from getting to the inner ear. This could be caused by an ear infection or wax in the ear. The way a professionally completed hearing test is structured, it will identify if this is the cause of a hearing loss. This is a medically treatable hearing loss and would warrant a referral to a medical physician, or medical ear specialist.
This type of hearing loss occurs when you have both a sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss together. Therefore the hair cells have been damaged, as well as there is something blocking sound from reaching the inner ear.
What to expect at a hearing test
The beginning of the appointment will start with a detailed hearing health questionnaire. This gives the provider a better idea of what caused the hearing loss (i.e. noise exposure or genetics) and how long it has been going on. This will also give the provider an idea if there is any red flags to your hearing health that would warrant a medical referral. The provider will also discuss with you how your hearing loss (if you have one) is impacting your daily life.
Common hearing issues:
- Is it making you change your habits?
- Are you avoiding going to gatherings you once enjoyed?
- Is your spouse bothered by how loud the TV has to be and have to repeat things frequently?
Next, you will have a hearing test completed. A hearing test is a non-invasive procedure where the provider will look in your ears to rule out infection and wax, then they will put on a headset or insert earphones and play tones to evaluate how soft you can hear sounds at certain pitches.
The provider will see if you hear differently with a headset vs. a bone conduction device (this is a device that presents sound through the bone directly stimulating the inner ear. This allows the provider to differentiate if hearing loss is sensorineural or conductive).
Speech testing will also be completed to give a better picture of how the ears are working. This entails repeating back a list of words at a comfortable level. Some providers may choose to do some testing in noise as well to see how you are being impacted by background noise. After the completion of the testing, the provider will discuss the results with you and give you recommendations on what your best options are.