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Audiometry
all information

Audiometry

(Hearing Assessment; Hearing Test; Audiology; Audiography)

Pronounced: AW-dee-OM-eh-tree

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition

Audiometry is a type of testing that measures how well you can hear. Testing is performed by an audiologist—someone trained to diagnose hearing problems. A piece of equipment called an audiometer is used during the test.

Parts of the Body Involved

Audiometry is used to test the ears.

Inner Ear

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Reasons for Procedure

This procedure is performed to detect or monitor hearing loss.

Risk Factors for Complications During the Procedure

  • Language problems
  • Lack of cooperation in young children and babies

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

  • Your audiologist may ask you:
    • When your hearing difficulty began
    • If it affects one ear or both
    • If you hear ringing in your ears
    • If you have ever experienced pain or discomfort in your ears
    • If there has been any recent drainage from your ears
    • If you have ever had ear infections
    • If you ever experience dizziness
    • If there is a family history of hearing loss
    • If you are exposed to a lot of noise at work
    • If you often ask people to repeat themselves
    • If others have commented that your television is too loud or that you speak too loudly
    • If it is hard for you to follow a conversation when you’re in a large group or in a noisy place
  • If your child is being tested, the audiologist may ask about:
    • Difficulties with speech and language development
    • Other developmental issues
    • Health history
    • Family history of permanent childhood hearing loss
    • Your child’s responses to both familiar sounds and unexpected ones
    • Difficulty in school
    • Complications during delivery
    • The audiologist will examine your ears to make sure they are not impacted with cerumen
  • Your audiologist will likely:
    • Examine the outer ear for deformities
    • Examine the ear canal and eardrum with an otoscope—a hand-held instrument equipped with a light and a magnifying lens

Anesthesia

Anesthesia is not used for this procedure.

Description of the Procedure

There are several types of audiometry, including:

For Adults and Older Children

Pure Tone Audiometry

This test usually takes place in a soundproof booth. You will put on headphones hooked to an audiometer—a device that sends sounds of different volumes and pitches to one ear at a time. You will be asked to respond, most likely by raising your hand, each time you hear a sound.

You may also be asked to wear a special instrument called a bone oscillator behind each ear. The device sends sounds as vibrations directly to the inner ear. You will again be asked to respond each time you hear a sound.

Speech Audiometry

Through headphones, you will hear the audiologist speak simple, two-syllable words. Words will be sent to one ear at a time, at different volume levels. You will be asked to repeat each word back to the audiologist, or to point to a picture.

Impedance Audiometry (also called Tympanometry)

A probe is inserted into your ear. The device changes the air pressure in your ear and emits sounds. The test measures how much your eardrum moves in response to the air pressure change and the sounds. It can help determine how well the middle ear is functioning and if there is fluid in the middle ear.

For Infants and Toddlers

Behavioral Audiometry

Babies are watched to see how they react to certain sounds.

Visual Reinforcement Audiometry

Children are taught to look toward the source of a sound.

Conditioned Play Audiometry

Older children are given a fun version of the pure tone audiometry test. Sounds of varying volume and pitch are sent through headphones to one ear at a time. Children are asked to do something with a toy, like drop a block in a bucket, each time they hear a sound.

After Procedure

Your pure tone audiometry test results are recorded on an audiogram, a chart or graph that shows the softest sounds you can hear. The audiologist will explain your test results and show you how to read the audiogram.

How Long Will It Take?

Testing times vary. An initial screening many take only 5 to 10 minutes. A more detailed hearing test may take up to an hour.

Will It Hurt?

There is no pain associated with these tests.

Possible Complications

There are no associated complications.

Average Hospital Stay

The tests are done on an outpatient basis.

Postoperative Care

There are no postoperative care needs.

Outcome

If test results confirm hearing loss, your audiologist will talk to you about treatment options and will refer you to an ear specialist (otologist) for treatment. Based on the degree of hearing loss and the type, he or she may suggest:

  • Additional testing
  • Cerumen (ear wax) management
  • Periodic monitoring of your hearing loss
  • Medical or surgical intervention
  • Antibiotics treatment if there is fluid in the middle ear
  • Use of hearing aids
  • Use of assistive listening devices—devices used with or without hearing aids to improve hearing in places where there is background noise or poor acoustics
  • Speech therapy—for those with speech and language development problems due to hearing loss

Call Your Doctor If Any of the Following Occurs

  • You experience continued or severe dizziness
  • You notice additional hearing loss
  • You experience pain

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Audiology
http://www.audiology.org

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
http://www.asha.org

My Baby’s Hearing Home Page
Boys Town National Research Hospital
http://www.babyhearing.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

BC Health Guide, British Columbia Ministry of Health
http://www.bchealthguide.org

Canadian Academy of Audiology
http://www.canadianaudiology.ca

References:

All about hearing loss: what is an audiogram? Boys Town National Research Hospital—My Baby’s Hearing Home Page website. Available at: http://www.babyhearing.org/HearingAmplification/HearingLoss/audiogram.asp . Accessed August 21, 2005.

Assistive technology. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/treatment/assist_tech.htm . Accessed August 23, 2005.

Audiogram and ENG. Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center College of Medicine website. Available at: www.hmc.psu.edu/healthinfo/a/audiogram.htm . Accessed August 23, 2005.

Audiology fact sheet. National Institutes of Health–Medline Plus website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003341.htm . Accessed August 21, 2005.

Frequently asked questions on newborn hearing screening and testing. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/ehdi/FAQ/questionscreening.htm . Accessed August 23, 2005.

Hearing assessment. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/testing/assess.htm . Accessed August 21, 2005.

Hearing screening. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/testing/ . Accessed August 21, 2005

Medical encyclopedia: tympanometry. National Institutes of Health–Medline Plus website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003390.htm . Accessed August 24, 2005.

Mehr AS. Understanding your audiogram. American Academy of Audiology website. Available at: www.audiology.org/consumer/guides/uya.php . Accessed August 22, 2005.

Types of hearing tests. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/info/ent/procedure/hearing-tests.htm . Accessed August 22, 2005.



Last reviewed November 2007 by Elie Edmond Rebeiz, MD, FACS

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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