Hearing loss may affect anyone at any age and it may be caused by a lot of factors, but the most common culprits are medical conditions, injuries, accidents, loud noise exposure, and heredity. Furthermore, hearing loss becomes more evident as one gets older and this is because aging affects the more delicate parts of the ear.
If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from hearing loss, you have to do something about it. It’s not enough that you’re just aware of it. You also have to apply the right treatment. Hearing loss usually progresses gradually, and it’s not really easy to notice it until it’s too late. In some cases, hearing loss can affect your overall health and that’s something that you don’t want to happen. Hearing loss testing does two things for you. First, it accurately determines what type of hearing loss you’re suffering from and how mild or severe your case is. The common types of hearing loss are as follows:
If you suffer from conductive hearing loss, then it’s difficult for sounds to reach your inner ear. You find it hard to hear soft sounds while louder sounds may come a bit muffled. Individuals who are diagnosed with this kind of hearing problem need to see an audiologist soon so that they can prescribe the right medicines or perform corrective surgeries.
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs if there’s damage to the inner ear, more particularly with the nerve pathways. This type of hearing loss is considered permanent. Here, you won’t be able to hear soft sounds while loud sounds come either unclear or muffled. To help address this issue, audiologists prescribe the use of hearing aids in Australia because medicine or surgery can no longer fix the problem.
The two types of hearing loss listed above may appear at the same time and this is what comprises the mixed hearing loss issue. This means that there are damages in one or more parts of the ear and that it also affects the nerve pathway to the brain. The effect of this type of hearing loss is twice as difficult compared to any one of the two conditions described above.
To know for sure if you suffer from any of the types of hearing loss listed above, you need to consult with an audiologist. Audiologists, in turn, will conduct one or more hearing tests to diagnose the issue accurately and prescribe the right course of treatment.
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Different Types of Hearing Tests
There are at least five types of hearing tests and the right one to use will depend on what comes out during the consultation stage. Age is also a factor in determining what type of hearing test the patient should undergo. Here are the most common types of tests performed:
Early Hearing Detection and Intervention
Early Hearing Detection and Intervention or simply EHDI is used on newborns. They test babies before they leave the hospital and the ones who fail to pass the initial screening are scheduled for a follow-up consultation or testing.
Otoacoustic Emissions Testing
Otoacoustic Emissions Testing or OAE measures the functions of the inner ear. The test uses a quick, non-invasive probe that is placed in the ear to send clicks or tones from the probe speaker. The sound should travel from the outer ear to the ear canal, the middle ear, and the cochlea. When the noise reaches the inner ear, then the hair cells in the cochlea gets excited and they react by emitting an acoustic response. Such response generates a very soft sound that travels back to the probe and is picked up by the microphone. The test shows the audiologist whether or not the hair cells in the cochlea are functioning within normal limits.
Impedance Testing evaluates the functionality of the middle ear and it only takes a few seconds to perform. Also referred to as the immittance testing, the procedure may include two other subtests, such as tympanometry and acoustic reflexes. In this test, eardrum mobility is measured by subjecting it under different pressure conditions. The results will show if there any problems existing in the middle ear.
Auditory Brainstem Response
Here, small electrodes will be placed on the baby’s head while little headphones are placed over their ears. Clicks or tones will be played and the equipment will measure the brain’s response to the sounds. The result will show which sounds the baby’s brain actively responds to. The test will only take a few minutes and may be performed while the baby is asleep.
The audiometry test uses a sound-test room where the child is placed and a variety of sounds is played. The audiologist will observe and document the child’s response to the different sounds. Depending on the child’s age, the concepts of behavioral testing or play audiometry may be applied.
These are the most common types of hearing tests that are performed by audiologists. There may be a few other modern techniques used today. But whatever method is used, the more important thing is to obtain accurate results.
Hearing Test Results
After one or more hearing tests have been conducted, the audiologist will hand you the results. They’ll give you what’s called an audiogram and it shows a graph of your left and right ear’s hearing level in decibels against the sound frequency they are subjected to in Hertz. Interpretation of the graph will reveal what degree of hearing loss you’re suffering from, and these are:
Mild Hearing Loss
If you suffer from mild hearing loss, then you’re able to hear one-on-one conversations just fine but you’ll experience difficulty in understanding what the other person is saying if there’s a lot of background noise. The graph will show that your hearing loss is between 26 and 40 decibels in the speech frequencies.
Moderate Hearing Loss
Here, you find it difficult to listen to and understand normal conversations. As a result, you usually ask people to repeat themselves a lot when speaking. People who suffer from this type of hearing loss can’t hear sounds that are lower than 40 to 69 decibels.
Severe Hearing Loss
Those who suffer from severe hearing loss won’t be able to hear what the other person is saying unless they use a hearing aid or any other type of amplification device. Those who simply read lips to understand the conversation suffer from this condition. Needless to say, if you can’t hear sounds that are lower than 70 to 94 decibels, then you suffer from severe hearing loss.
Profound Hearing Loss
In this condition, a person may only hear extremely loud sounds and conversations. Even if you wear a hearing aid or cochlear implant, you will still find it hard to understand what the other person is saying. The best way to communicate is to use sign language. People who suffer from this hearing loss won’t be able to hear that are sound lower than 95 decibels.
To determine with accuracy what type of hearing loss you’re suffering from, consult with licensed audiologists. They should help you interpret the result of the audiogram, which indicates the thresholds of the low and high pitches from the test and how your hearing levels faired.
The right medications and course of treatment prescribed will be based on the results of the test and your lifestyle. Some conditions may be solved with the use of hearing aids while others may be addressed through aural communication classes. The best course of treatment will be determined by the professional. It’s important to treat hearing loss at their onset as it may possibly lead to other health-related problems such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and depression if left ignored.