The First Step to Better Hearing is a Comprehensive Hearing Assessment
Dental checkups, annual physicals, eye exams, and close monitoring of your cholesterol and blood pressure are probably among your health screening priorities, but how long has it been since you’ve had a hearing test?
In the US, hearing loss is the third most common health issue behind arthritis and heart disease, but screening for hearing loss isn’t usually near the top of the health screening list for Americans – if it makes the list at all.
Tragically, most people put off hearing tests until hearing becomes a struggle or a physician or loved one insists on a hearing evaluation. In fact, most people wait from 7 to 10 years after the first signs of hearing loss show up before scheduling a hearing loss test.
When hearing loss is left undetected and untreated, it continues to increase in severity, but worse yet, other negative health conditions like anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, and balance disorders begin to develop.
If you’re ready to take control of your hearing before things get worse, you’re probably wondering, “Where do I go for a hearing test near me?”
The audiologists at Audiological Services of Lufkin have the expertise, experience, and equipment to accurately diagnose hearing loss early on, giving us a much better chance to treat your hearing loss before it begins to disrupt your independent lifestyle and quality of life.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hearing Loss
Q. What are some of the most common signs of hearing loss?
A. Some of the most common signs related to hearing loss include:
- Asking people to repeat themselves more often
- Conversation in a noisy environment is a struggle
- Frequently misheard words
- Just about everyone in your life seems to be mumbling
- People are telling you to turn the TV down
- Conversations on the phone are difficult to understand
- Constant ringing or buzzing in your ears
- Friends and family telling you to “get your ears checked”
Q. What causes hearing loss?
A. The most common cause of hearing loss is presbycusis or the deterioration of the structural components in the inner ear, usually due to aging or genetics. Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the next most common cause, which is the result of frequent or ongoing exposure to sounds over 85 decibels (lawnmower or chainsaw) as well as the frequent firing of a firearm without hearing protection or an extreme explosive event.
Hearing loss can also be caused by earwax or some other object blocking the ear canal, inflammation, and growths or tumors, while ototoxic drugs and medications are additional causes.
Q. Are there different kinds of hearing loss?
A. There are three different kinds of hearing loss:
- Conductive Hearing Loss relates to an obstruction inside the ear canal that blocks sound from being “conducted” to the middle ear, which is usually temporary.
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss is a form of permanent hearing loss that comes from damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or within the auditory nerve, which can come from aging, noise exposure, damage caused by medications, cancer treatments, or illnesses.
- Mixed Hearing Loss is a mixture of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
Q. Are there different levels of hearing loss?
A. Your audiogram plots out the various pitches or frequencies you’re able to hear, allowing your audiologist to classify your hearing loss in any of five categories, including:
- Mild: Trouble hearing conversations in a noisy room or when someone is speaking quietly. In quiet environments, mild hearing loss is manageable.
- Moderate: It is harder to hear conversation in group settings. People with moderate loss tend to have the TV turned up too loud.
- Moderately Severe: Hearing and understanding speech is significantly reduced at this level, especially in group environments or when talking on the telephone.
- Severe: Normal conversation becomes inaudible, and shouting can still be challenging to comprehend.
- Profound: At this level, only the loudest sounds are audible, and shouting may not be heard at all.
Q. Can I have Hearing Loss in Just One Ear?
A. Single sided hearing loss is possible, but not common. The vast majority of people with hearing loss have a loss in both ears (bilateral loss), but one ear might have greater damage, or you learn to favor one ear as your hearing deteriorates. True unilateral hearing loss may be caused by:
- Congenital or genetics
- Illness or infection
- Head or ear trauma
Single-sided deafness (SSD) is when hearing loss in one ear is so severe that a conventional hearing aid will not help, but there are specific hearing aids that may help route sounds from the poor ear over to the good ear using Bluetooth technology.
Q. How do I prevent my hearing loss from getting worse?
A. Hearing loss cannot always be prevented, but you can limit its effect on your life, by:
- Using hearing aids to address your hearing loss. Hearing aids stimulate the hearing nerve, making the most out of the hearing ability you have left and keeping your brain’s ability to recognize speech in top shape.
- Limiting your exposure to noise. Whether you’re exposed to noise at work, while you’re doing chores around the house (mowing the lawn, sawing wood, etc.), enjoying recreational activities (snowmobiling, target shooting, hunting, etc.), or attending a concert, nightclub, or major sporting event, ear protection is essential for limiting damage.
- Scheduling annual hearing tests, especially if you’re over the age of 50, allows you to monitor your hearing health and take action as soon as any changes occur.
Q. Are hearing aids the only treatment option for hearing loss?
A. If your hearing loss is caused by a blockage, such as a wax buildup, a foreign object, inflammation, a growth, or tumor (conductive hearing loss), your hearing healthcare professional can perform some form of intervention, like removing the object, medication to reduce inflammation, or a minor surgical procedure to correct your hearing challenge.
However, if your hearing loss is the result of damage to the sensory structures in the inner ear (sensorineural hearing loss), the damage is usually permanent. Fortunately, 95% of sensorineural hearing loss cases can be effectively helped through the use of hearing aids, which improve hearing as well as restore balance and limit cognitive decline.
What Happens During a Hearing Assessment
A Friendly Conversation About You
We start our consultations with a conversation about you. Not because we’re nosey but because it provides our audiologists with an opportunity to get to know you better and put you at ease.
Our conversation also includes questions about your occupation and lifestyle, including hobbies, special interests, and the types of leisure activities you enjoy, as well as your medical history, any medications you’re taking, and any history of hearing problems in your family.
Answers to these questions help us identify activities, medical conditions, or genetic predispositions that contribute to your hearing challenges. As part of the best practices of audiology we follow, transparency is a priority, which means we give you time to ask questions or express any concerns related to your hearing loss and the hearing care services we provide.
Physical Examination of Your Ears
The next part of an Audiological Services hearing assessment is a physical examination using an otoscope (a magnifying glass with a light on a tapered tip).
During this part of the exam, we’re evaluating skin conditions, earwax accumulation, inflammation, or the presence of other obstructions in your ear canal as well as examining the structural health of the eardrum.
In some cases, the removal of obstructions, such as earwax, a bug, or some other foreign object, is all that’s necessary to restore your hearing; while in other cases, medication to reduce inflammation or removing a growth with a simple procedure is necessary.
Hearing Tests During a Hearing Assessment
Best practices for professional hearing assessments include a full series of hearing tests designed to pinpoint the exact type of hearing loss and its level of severity.
Tympanometry is used to take measurements of our ears and is sensitive to middle-ear problems. It is a quick, painless test that can be completed on infants, children, and adults. A soft tip connected to a probe that controls air pressure and a low tone is placed into the ear canal to make measurements.
Subtle ear pressure is introduced into the ear, and a computer translates the readings from the ear canal into a graph called a tympanogram. Tympanometry measures the volume, or amount of space, from the tip of the probe to the eardrum (tympanum).
In children, this helps determine if a surgically-placed tube in the eardrum is open or closed. When there is abnormal movement of the eardrum as air pressure is put into the ear canal, there may be fluid behind the eardrum or a hole or rupture in the eardrum.
Pure Tone Audiometry
Pure tone audiometry determines the type and severity of one’s hearing loss. Patients are instructed to indicate when they hear pulsed pure tones presented in descending levels from 250 Hz – 8000 Hz via air and bone conduction.
The pure tone threshold is the lowest level at which two of three responses are given for the same frequency. Air and bone conduction thresholds should be similar. If there is an air/bone gap (a difference of 15 decibels or more), further testing or additional procedures are warranted.
Speech reception threshold (SRT) indicates the patient’s degree of hearing loss for speech. Patients are instructed to repeat spondee words (composed of two syllables pronounced with equal stress and effort) presented in descending levels. The SRT is defined as the lowest level at which two of three spondees are repeated correctly.
Speech discrimination scores (SDS) indicate the patient’s ability to understand speech. Patients are instructed to repeat phonetically-balanced words (those that contain all the phonetic elements of connected English discourse in their normal proportion to one another) presented at a comfortable listening level. A percentage of correct words is calculated.
Otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) are tiny sounds recorded in the ear canal from the cochlea. The tiny nerve cells in the cochlea (hair cells) react in certain ways to the presence of sounds.
The test is conducted by inserting a soft tip into the patient’s ear. The test will produce clicking or buzzing sounds, which stimulate certain hair cells in the cochlea. If the hair cells are healthy, they will emit a tiny response (similar to an echo) that can be measured with special equipment. These responses are OAEs.
OAEs can show underlying damage to the organ of hearing before you might notice it. This is especially true in cases of noise-induced hearing loss. The hair cells are worked so hard over and over in noisy environments that they eventually become broken and damaged.
This damage can be seen on an OAE test before it is measured during a regular pure-tone hearing test. This kind of warning can help a hearing professional give you a hearing loss conservation plan, including recommendations and precautions to preserve your hearing.
Discussing Your Results
Our audiologists finish your comprehensive hearing assessment with a discussion about your test results and what they mean. We’ll provide you with the different options necessary to improve your hearing, whether it’s hearing protection for work or certain activities and hobbies, changes to medications or lifestyle habits, or the need for hearing aids.
Regardless of the outcome of your results, we value your input during this process because, for us, the foundation of a viable hearing care partnership begins with honesty and trust.
Schedule an Appointment
If enjoying a night out or a family gathering has become difficult because of background noise, others are complaining about the volume of your television, or friends and family are harassing you to “get your ears checked,” Audiological Services of Lufkin can provide you with the truth about your hearing with a comprehensive hearing evaluation.
Scheduling an appointment for a hearing assessment is simple. Just submit the adjacent form and a member of our team will call you to provide assistance.
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