The importance of routine hearing tests:
Hearing loss is one of the most prevalent and fastest growing chronic health conditions facing Canadians today. Hearing loss can affect individuals young and old and for a variety of reasons – the most common being exposure to loud noises and aging. It is also important to know that our focus is not on hearing loss; our focus is on hearing health!
We recommend a baseline hearing assessment during early adulthood and repeat assessments every 5-10 years for people under the age of 55. The frequency at which your hearing should be assessed will be determined by your certified audiologist and is dependent on risk factors such as family history of hearing loss, occupational or recreational noise exposure, and medical conditions such as, but not limited to, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Adults over the age of 55 should have their hearing assessed every two years.
If at any point in time a hearing loss is diagnosed, annual hearing assessments are advised until the hearing loss has stabilized. Our clinics offer comprehensive diagnostic hearing assessments by certified audiologists. You do not need a doctor’s referral to have your hearing checked.
What happens during a hearing test:
Before your appointment begins you will be asked to complete a case history information form. This form asks questions about your hearing, medical conditions related to your hearing and prescription medications.
At the beginning of your appointment your audiologist will review your case history form with you and may ask additional questions. For example, your audiologist may ask you to describe the specific situations in which you are having trouble hearing.
Your audiologist will look in each ear using an otoscopic light. This allows your audiologist to see any abnormalities such as excessive wax, inflammation, injury or signs of infection in the ear canal and/or on the eardrum. Our clinics are also equipped with a video otoscope which allows patients to see the inside of their ear canal during otoscopy.
Testing of the Middle Ear
Sound must first travel past the eardrum and through the middle ear space before it can reach the inner ear where hearing begins to take place. To ensure that sound is traveling as it should, your audiologist will do a "pressure" test using specialized equipment to check the mobility of your eardrum and the three small bones (ossicles) in your middle ear. This testing also assesses the presence of your acoustic reflexes – an involuntary protective mechanism found in the middle ear.
Threshold and Speech Testing in Sound Booth
Your audiologist will then seat you inside a sound insulated booth and use insert or over-the-ear earphones that are connected to an audiometer.
You will first be asked to repeat words at different loudness levels. This testing determines the softest level at which you can hear speech and how well you understand speech in optimal listening situations. You will then be asked to push a button when you hear tones/beeps at different loudness levels and different frequencies. This testing determines the exact point (or "threshold") at which you can hear the different sounds.
If a hearing loss is found, your audiologist will also test your hearing via bone conduction using a headband with a bone vibrator attached. This type of testing is used to confirm type of hearing loss.
Extended High Frequency Audiometry
Extended high frequencies (EHFs) refer to sounds beyond 8000 Hz. The assessment of EHFs is useful in determining the ototoxic (damaging) effects of certain medications such as chemotherapy drugs and for early detection of noise induced hearing loss. Extended high frequency audiometry is currently only available in our Alderney Hearing Centre location.
If your audiologist feels it is necessary, additional speech-in-noise testing may also be done. This testing assesses the degree of difficulty you are having while trying to listen in noisy places such as restaurants, small groups and parties.
The results of your hearing assessment will be recorded on a form called an audiogram, which will be reviewed with you immediately following your assessment. The audiogram reflects your level of hearing in frequencies (pitch) and decibels (loudness). If necessary, your audiologist will educate you on the type, pattern and degree of your hearing loss. They will also educate you on how your hearing loss may be affecting your ability to understand words during normal conversational speech in quiet and in noise.
- If the results of your hearing assessment suggest the presence of some disease process, your audiologist will refer you for further medical testing and treatment.
- If a hearing loss is detected and there is no need for further medical testing, your audiologist will recommend rehabilitative options, such as hearing aids and assistive listening devices. They will also provide additional supports such as counselling and aural rehabilitation.