Tinnitus is often connected to hearing loss, so if you’re hearing any ringing or uncomfortable sensations coming from within your ears, be sure to schedule a consultation with an audiologist for a hearing test. When you are at your appointment, the audiologist will screen your hearing health by running a test or two. Your visit to the audiologist will start with a physical ear exam to check for any earwax build-up and infections that may cause temporary hearing problems or even tinnitus. Then, they will measure your hearing ability with various hearing tests. There are quite a few different types of hearing tests, though the test(s) that will be performed depends on the individual and the hearing problem(s) they’re experiencing.
Usually a doctor, or audiologist, will diagnose tinnitus by the symptoms you describe. While there is no cure for tinnitus, a treatment can be prescribed. But in order to get treated, an extensive medical history and physical exam will be conducted, along with hearing tests. In some cases, blood work will be done in order to see if there is an underlying condition that may be causing your tinnitus. Sometimes though, there is no identifiable cause to tinnitus.
We’ve gone ahead and broke down the different hearing tests you may experience when getting your hearing examined. Read on to help better prepare for and understand how hearing tests work.
Pure tone testing, also known as air conduction testing, is where you use a set of headphones and signal whenever you hear a ”beep.” Usually you just raise your hand, press a button and point to the ear where you heard the sound, or simply respond to hearing the “beep” by saying, “yes.”
Middle ear testing, or tympanometry, is a medical test that examines the condition of the middle ear, along with the mobility of your eardrum. A small probe is inserted into your ear to check the eardrum sensitivity by listening to the different air pressures being released. The test is quick and painless, unless there is inflammation in your middle ear or eardrum.
Speech understanding, or speech audiometry, consists of two different tests. One checks how well you listen to the speech sounds and the other checks how well you can identify and distinguish spoken words. The audiologist checks how well you can repeat a given set of words to establish your speech reception threshold (SRT). Following the SRT, the audiologist will measure your speech discrimination – your ability to recognize and understand speech at a listening level that is easily heard.
Otoacoustic emissions are sounds generated by the cochlea. Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Testing examines the inner ear’s ability to respond to sound through measuring the function of the hair cells. To test the inner ear, a small probe is placed into your ear and plays a series of tones or clicks. The inner ear hair cells will respond to the sounds by vibrating, thus sending a faint sound to the middle. That faint sound is the OAE being measured. However, if there are few to no vibrations at all, then your hearing loss exceeds 25–30 decibels (dB).
In a movement test, your doctor or audiologist may ask you to clench your jaw, move your eyes, make gestures with your arms, and make other movements with your neck and legs. Any changes in your tinnitus symptoms while moving your body in different ways may help indicate any underlying causes for your tinnitus.
Perception of Tinnitus Sounds
The pitch-matching test measures the pitch and loudness of tinnitus. Each person has a different perception of what tinnitus sounds like. The sounds that you hear can help your doctor diagnose the possible root cause.
Most of the hearing tests are quick and noninvasive. They can cost as low as $70 or up to $250 depending on the insurance policy, the clinic, and the practitioner performing the hearing exam. Many health insurance companies cover annual hearing tests or at least portions of it. When it comes to the cost, the best thing to do is call your audiologist in advance and confirm they accept your insurance.
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