An audiologist is a specialist healthcare professional who helps to evaluate hearing loss and pinpoint any related disorders. They can also advise individuals who are already suffering in this regard and need rehabilitation. This specialist is trained to use a variety of different procedures and tests to pinpoint the cause of any problem and also to provide you with hearing aids or other devices as needed.
Procedure During First Consultation
To start with, the professional will engage a full consultation to develop your case history. They will ask you questions about your general hearing, whether or not you use any hearing aids currently, how much noise you're exposed to on a regular basis and whether you have any general communication problems with other people.
They will want to know if you have previously had any surgery on either ear, or whether you've previously had any tinnitus, or ringing in the ear. If you suffer from dizzy spells you should also tell them about this.
Next, the audiologist will conduct an otoscopy. This involves a detailed investigation of the ear canal using a device called an otoscope. It looks something like a pen, but has a magnifying device attached as well as a light. When looking in your ear, the specialist will check for wax buildup or any other blockage, or specific issues related to your ear canal.
Testing is next, using a process known as tympanometry. A tiny probe is inserted into your ear and you will hear a number of "beeps." You may also feel a slight amount of pressure, but this is nothing to worry about. The test is actually measuring how the eardrum responds to this slight increase in pressure. It will help the specialist determine whether there is a buildup of fluid, some type of infection or a symptom known as eustachian tube dysfunction.
Once this test has been completed your consultant will turn to audiometric evaluation. For these tests you will sit in a quiet room, which is sometimes soundproofed. You will be asked to push a button whenever you hear a specific tone. Firstly, you will wear earphones and the audiologist works out the softest sound you can hear at different pitch levels.
Then, a device known as a bone vibrator is placed immediately behind your ear on the bone and your audiologist will work out the softest level you can hear when bypassing the outer and middle ears in this fashion. Sound is effectively conducted by the bone directly to the inner ear.
Making a Conclusion
From all these tests your consultant will be able to tell you what type of hearing issue you may have. It could be conductive, related to the middle or outer ear, or it could be sensorineural, which is related to the inner ear only. It could also be a mixture of both.
Following the conclusion of these tests the audiologist will explain the results and what they may mean in your case. At that point, hearing aids or listening devices may be prescribed, or you may need a visit to a specialist if medical conditions may be contributing to the problem.
For more information, consult with audiologists through resources such as Bloom Hearing.