What Tests Evaluate the Extent of Hearing Damage?

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I think the most important thing that we want to do when we first have an encounter with a patient is to truly understand what their history is like because that will really provide us with clues as to what might be causing their hearing loss or even the degree of hearing loss.

So the type of questions that we might ask are, do you have a history of hearing loss? Does your family have a history of hearing loss? Because there's a genetic component of all of our every aspect of our bodies, are you experiencing dizziness? Do you have trouble or do you have difficulty understanding in the background of noise? Are you experiencing [UNKNOWN]? Are you loosing clarity? We want to understand what types of medications they might be taking now or medications that they might have taken in the past that might have impacted their hearing.

So once we've developed a firm understanding of what their history is like, first thing we want to do is actually do a visible inspection of the ear canal, with an instrument called an otoscope. It's a simple flashlight with a magnifying glass that allows us to take a look inside the person's ear canal and really understand if it's healthy, if there's an infection in the ear canal, if there's too much wax which might be causing a hearing loss, if it's blocking up the ear canal.

And if the eardrum itself is healthy or perhaps if the bones behind the eardrum or if there's fluid behind the eardrum. Once we've medically cleared from the physician that there is no cause of hearing loss occurring in the outer ear, the ear canal or the eardrum itself an audiologist would go on to assess your hearing, by using a standard beep test that you might have been familiar with in elementary school.

Most of us haven't had our hearing tested since that period of time so it is a familiar experience but it's long in the past, the last time we've had it but they've come a long way in terms of the tests that we have. So that will help us to quantify the person's hearing loss, other tests will also help us to understand if there are normal echos that come from the ear and those little hair cells that are found deep inside of the ear itself.

Once we can understand if the hair cells are intact and the degree of hearing loss or the normalcy of their hearing, we can then start to counsel the patient in terms on what we might do to help them if they do have a hearing loss.