Patients who suffer from hearing loss, or other hearing- and balance-related conditions, may benefit from an audiologic evaluation. Hearing loss may be the result of trauma caused by noise exposure, chronic ear infections, injury, underlying medical conditions, disease or other factors. These comprehensive diagnostic exams can determine the cause, severity and best treatment option for a condition causing hearing loss or a balance disorder.
Audiologic Tests for Children and Adults
An audiogram uses sounds of specific frequencies and intensity levels to determine what a person can hear in each ear. The sounds are heard through headphones, and the patient is asked to identify each sound and the ear in which it was heard. The sounds become fainter and fainter, ultimately determining the lowest level at which a patient can hear. An audiogram may also include speech in the form of two-syllable words to determine how well a patient can comprehend what is being heard. For results to be considered normal, a patient must be able to hear a normal speaking voice, a whisper and the ticking of a watch.
Play audiometry is a modified version of the diagnostic audiogram that is sometimes used when working with preschool and younger school-age children. The sounds are heard through headphones, but rather than raising a hand to indicate hearing a sound, the child places a toy in a container.
Tympanometry examines and diagnoses the middle ear by varying air pressure in the ear canal to determine how the ear responds. A probe is inserted into the ear to change the air pressure, produce a tone and measure the responses. The patient may not speak, move or swallow during the test because doing so can affect ear pressure. Tympanometry measures the functionality of the ear drum (tympanic membrane). Abnormal results may be the result of fluid in the middle ear, a perforated ear drum or impacted ear wax.
An electrocochleagraphy, also known as an ECoG, is a diagnostic procedure that measures electrical potentials within the inner ear by stimulating sounds. This procedure may be performed to determine if there is excessive fluid pressure in the inner ear, and is also effective in diagnosing Meniere's disease. During the ECoG procedure, several electrodes are placed on the head, and a microphone and earphone are placed inside the ear. A series of clicking noises will begin as the electrodes measure the body's natural response. This procedure is performed in a doctor's office, and generally takes about 40 minutes.