Diagnostic Hearing Tests

Taking a diagnostic hearing test

We provide hearing care services — whatever they may be—and that can include diagnostic hearing tests. Your first visit with one of our audiologists will start with answering questions about your medical and hearing history. Next, they will look into your ears using a light, called an otoscope, to check for anything in the ear canal that might affect your hearing. Then, you will be set up in our Sound Booth where several types of tests will be conducted to map your hearing test results. These tests will assess:

  • Whether there is hearing loss
  • The cause of hearing loss (to the extent possible)
  • The degree and configuration (one or both ears) of hearing loss
  • The best treatment options available

While this traditional hearing test evaluates how well your ears are doing their job—collecting, amplifying, organizing, and transmitting the amplified and organized signal to the auditory nerve—there is SO much more to hearing than what happens in the ears! Once that signal hits the nerve, that is when the magic happens. The signal travels from the ear to the brainstem, on to the midbrain, and then the auditory cortices, criss-cross your brain multiple times while sending information up and down that chain.

What if all of the criss-crossing isn’t working as it should? Perhaps there is an unexpected pause, or a part of the brain is somehow damaged? What if processing speed is slower and we can’t keep up with what we’re hearing—rapid conversation, lots of background noise? Or maybe our memory is impacted and we can’t associate a sound with anything we have heard before. Because of all these variables, we recently added an additional test to better analyze and understand test results.

Thrive is a quick 6-minute computer-based screening, that involves watching a screen and moving a joystick. It’s a simple test to take that doesn’t depend on hearing. Test results provide insight into what happens beyond the ear AND beyond the auditory system, providing you and our audiologists with very meaningful information about your hearing.

Let us provide you with the hearing care services you need. Schedule an appointment with one of our audiologists today by calling (303) 651-1178.

How do we hear?

When an object is sent into vibration such as a person dropping a fork or speaking a word, that vibration is transformed into mechanical energy by the tympanic membrane. It is then transmitted through the ossicles to the inner ear where it is changed again into hydraulic energy for transmission through the fluid-filled cochlea. The cochlea’s hair cells are stimulated by the fluid waves and a neurochemical event takes place that excites the nerves of hearing. The physical characteristics of the original sound are preserved at every energy change along the way until this code becomes one the brain can recognize and process.

Hearing loss misleads our brain with a loss of audibility and introduces distortion into the message that reaches the brain. Changes in the effectiveness of the brain to process stimuli, from head trauma, disease, or from aging, can result in symptoms that mimic hearing loss. The ears and the brain combine in a remarkable way to process neural events into the sense of hearing. Perhaps it’s fair to say that we “hear” with our brain, not with our ears!


Types of Diagnostic Hearing Tests

Pure-Tone Testing

A pure-tone air conduction hearing test determines the faintest tones a person can hear at selected pitches (frequencies), from low to high. During this test, earphones are worn so that information can be obtained for each ear.

The person taking the test may be asked to respond to the sounds in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Raising a finger or hand
  • Pressing a button, pointing to the ear where the sound was received
  • Saying “yes” to indicate the sound was heard

Speech Testing

The audiologist will conduct tests of listening and speech. These results are recorded on the audiogram. One test that the audiologist conducts during a hearing test is the speech reception threshold (SRT). This is used with older children and adults, and helps to confirm the pure-tone test results. The SRT records the faintest speech that can be heard half the time. Then the audiologist will record word recognition or the ability to correctly repeat back words at a comfortable loudness level.

Speech testing may be done in a quiet or noisy environment. Difficulty understanding speech in background noise is a common complaint of people with hearing loss, and this information is helpful.

Tests of the Middle Ear

The audiologist may also take measurements that will provide information about how the middle ear is functioning. These measurements include tympanometry, acoustic reflex measures, and static acoustic measures.

Tympanometry assists in the detection of fluid in the middle ear, perforation of the eardrum, or wax blocking the ear canal. Tympanometry pushes air pressure into the ear canal, making the eardrum move back and forth. The test measures the mobility of the eardrum. Graphs are created, called tympanograms. These can reveal a stiff eardrum, a hole in the eardrum, or an eardrum that moves too much.

Acoustic reflex measures add information about the possible location of the hearing problem. Everyone has an acoustic reflex to sounds. A tiny muscle in the middle ear contracts when a loud sound occurs. The loudness level at which the acoustic reflex occurs—or the absence of the acoustic reflex—gives information to the audiologist about the type of hearing loss.

Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs)

Otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) are sounds given off by the inner ear when the cochlea is stimulated by a sound. When sound stimulates the cochlea, the outer hair cells vibrate. The vibration produces a nearly inaudible sound that echoes back into the middle ear. The sound can be measured with a small probe inserted into the ear canal.

People with normal hearing produce emissions. Those with hearing loss greater than 25–30 decibels (dB) do not produce these very soft sounds. This test can detect blockage in the outer ear canal, as well as the presence of middle ear fluid and damage to the outer hair cells in the cochlea.

An audiological evaluation is much more than “just a hearing test.”

After the tests are completed, the audiologist will review each component of the audiologic evaluation with you to obtain a profile of hearing abilities and needs. Additional specialized testing may be indicated and recommended based on these initial test results.

The hearing evaluation may result in recommendations related to:

  • Further follow-up, such as medical referral
  • Educational referral
  • Hearing aid/Implant/Sensory aid assessment
  • Assessment for assistive listening devices
  • Hearing rehabilitation assessment
  • Speech and language assessment and/or counseling

As always, we’re here to help. If you or someone you love thinks they may be suffering from hearing loss, don’t wait! Make an appointment with us, and let’s get some diagnostic hearing tests done to see how we can help!