If you suffer from hearing or balance related conditions, you may benefit from audiologic testing. These comprehensive diagnostic exams can determine the cause, severity and best treatment option for these conditions. Audiologic tests usually precede the visit for convenience.
There are three basic types of hearing loss, varying both in causes and treatment.
In conductive hearing loss, the problem results from a structural or blockage problem with the outer or middle ear. This variety of hearing loss, which causes sounds to be less audible, is most often treated with surgery.
In sensorineural hearing loss, the difficulty results from damage to the inner ear or to the auditory nerve, most commonly because the hair cells are not functioning properly. Sensorineural hearing loss, which causes sounds to be less intelligible, is often treated successfully with hearing aids.
Mixed hearing loss occurs when the patient suffers from hearing loss as a result of both neural and conductive malfunctions affecting both the both the outer or middle and the inner ear. Mixed hearing loss is most often treated with bone anchored hearing aids.
Diagnostic Audiogram - 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 earphones and the patient is asked to identify each time they hear a sound and in which ear. The sounds will become lower and lower to determine the level in which a patient can barely hear. An audiogram also includes speech in the form of two-syllable words to determine how well a patient can comprehend what is being heard.
Tympanometry - Tympanometry examines and diagnoses the middle ear by varying air pressure in the ear canal to see how the ear responds. A probe is inserted into the ear to change the air pressure, produce a tone and then measure the responses. The patient may not speak, move or swallow during the test because these actions can affect the ear pressure. Tympanometry measures the functionality of the ear drum or tympanic membrane. Abnormal results may be the result of fluid in the middle ear, perforated ear drum or impacted ear wax.
Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response Test (BAER) - is also known as the Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR). The BAER examines brain waves that are stimulated by a clicking sound to evaluate the auditory pathways in the brain. Electrodes are placed on the scalp and earlobes and the patient listens to a clicking noise through headphones. The electrodes record the brain's reaction. The BAER is used to diagnose nervous system abnormalities and hearing loss in infants, which may also be the result of multiple sclerosis or a stroke.
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Testing - OAEs are very soft acoustic responses to stimuli from the outer hair cells in the cochlea. The test is performed by inserting a microphone and two speakers into the ear to emit a sound and then record the response signal. The test is often performed on children when hearing loss is a possibility. Absent or very soft response signals could be the result of hearing loss, fluid behind the ears or damage to the cochlea.
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