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Hearing Loss: What's New in Testing?

Hearing Care

An audiologist or hearing specialist can test your hearing many different ways. To assess middle ear function, the screenings include tympanometry, acoustic reflex measures, and static acoustic measures. Once the specialist completes your screening, he reviews your audiologic evaluation to obtain a profile of hearing deficits and needs. Additional specialized tests could be necessary depending on your individual result, such as a CT scan or MRI. The audiologist performs hearing tests to determine exactly how much sound you can hear and the specific sound strength you perceive. Find out more about the various hearing testing methods used today.                                      


An audiogram is a basic hearing screening the audiologist performs in a soundproof room. The hearing specialist uses sophisticated equipment to administer the test. Testing with earphones involves tones present to each of your ears, one at a time. The doctor records the lowest level that you hear with the audiogram. There are two main types of audiograms for children: visual reinforced audiometry and conditioned play audiometry. The visual type is best for infants and children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years of age. The child gives a response when looking to the source of the presented sound. The conditioned type is best for older children, aged 2 to 5 years. The child performs an activity each time he hears a sound. Site of lesion testing is another form of audiogram, and this screening is for adults. This test helps determine where the problem is by comparing the two ears, detecting signal intensity changes, testing hearing in the presence of noise, and assessing ability to hear with both ears.


Tympanometry is a common screening to assess the pressure in the middle ear and fluid problems. The audiologist performs this test by placing gentle air pressure to the tympanic membrane with an ear probe. Tympanometry measures eardrum mobility, detects eardrum perforation, and other conditions.


Brainstem Evoked Response Audiometry (BERA) and Auditory Brain Stem Response (ABR) testing both involve the use of calibrated, computerized equipment. The audiologist places sounds in your ear and documents the brainstem’s response from small electrodes taped on your head. These types of testing help the audiologist check for sensory/nerve hearing loss, brainstem pathway problems, and soft sound deficits.

Speech Reception and Word Recognition Tests

The audiologist uses speech reception and word recognition screening to measure your ability to hear and understand a normal conversation. During the test, the audiologist asks you to repeat simple words that have been spoken in varying sounds of loudness. The doctor evaluates your hearing based on how well you perceive the sound and your voice response.

Otoacoustic Emissions

Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs) are sounds projected from the inner ear with cochlea stimulation from sound. When you perceive a sound by the cochlea, your outer ear hair cells vibrate to produce a nearly inaudible sound that echoes back to the middle ear. The audiologist measures that sound with a small probe placed in the ear canal. People who can hear normally produce emissions, but those with hearing loss do not hear very soft sounds. OAE testing is often used for newborn screenings.

Balance Testing

If you hear a persistent ringing in your ears, you may have a condition called tinnitus. The audiologist tests your inner ear for appropriate balance through balance testing. With tinnitus and other sensory/nerve hearing deficits, the inner ear fluid becomes imbalanced. The electronystagomography (ENG) screening is one balance test that involves measuring eye movements while stimulating the body’s vestibular system of balance control. Also, the computerized dynamic posturography (CDP) test checks overall balance function by way of a computerized platform.

The New Video Head Impulse Testing System

GN Otometrics, one of the world’s best hearing diagnostic companies, recently introduced the first and only video head impulse testing system (VHIT). The VHIT screening device can check for vestibular function in less than ten minutes. This system uses an impulse that generates measurement of both the head and the eye movement to screen the ocular reflex. Because of the smaller amplitude head impulses, the testing experience is much more pleasant for you.