Diagnostic Audiologic Evaluation

If you or your child has been referred for a diagnostic audiologic evaluation, it means that hearing loss needs to be ruled out or further examined. The diagnostic audiologic evaluation may be indicated for individuals who did not pass an initial hearing screening or to establish a baseline of hearing levels.

The evaluation is done to determine if a hearing loss is present, and if so, to detail the type and severity of the hearing loss. It also may provide insight into the cause of the hearing loss as well as provide guidance for your physician or audiologist in making appropriate treatment recommendations.

What Tests Will Be Done?

The specific tests done during the evaluation will depend on the patient's age, and what is known already about their hearing status. These various tests will determine the degree of hearing loss, the type of hearing loss, and the conditions of the ear canal and middle ear. The tests will also help determine if the hearing loss is conductive (middle or outer ear problem) or sensorineural (inner ear problem or central processing difficulty of the brain).

A diagnostic audiologic evaluation conducted at Grand Rapids ENT includes pure-tone testing, bone-conduction testing, and speech testing.

Pure-tone Air and Bone Conduction Testing

Pure-tone air conduction testing determines the quietest tones that a person can hear at different frequencies, both low and high. Bone conduction testing is similar to pure-tone air conduction testing. A different type of headphone is used during bone conduction testing and the results help the specialist determine if the hearing loss is originating from the outer/middle ear or from the inner ear.

Speech Testing

A speech reception threshold (SRT) test is often used with older children and adults to confirm the results of a pure-tone test. This test determines the lowest level at which the patient can recognize words or speech stimuli.  Speech recognition testing evaluates the ability to correctly repeat words which are presented at a comfortable loudness level.

Additional Tests:

Other tests performed may be otoscopy (examining the ear canal) and tympanometry (test of the middle ear) to determine the health of the ear canal and the middle ear.

Specialized tests exist for infants and young children, as well as children and adults with developmental and cognitive impairments. These more-specialized tests allow the audiologist to test the auditory system when the patient is not able to actively participate in the tests or evaluation.

Other tests may include:

  • Brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER) or Auditory brainstem response (ABR) 
  • Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) screening

OAE screenings are usually provided and may be conducted during your appointment at one of our Grand Rapids ENT offices if needed.

Visual reinforcement and conditioned play audiometry for children

For children, it is important to have a diagnostic audiologic evaluation whenever a hearing loss is suspected. It is the first step in identifying hearing loss and dealing with it to improve quality of life.

Along with the evaluation, you should generally expect to have time to review the results with your provider. He or she can interpret the tests for you, answer your questions, provide you with information and referrals as needed, as well as begin your treatment plan, if indicated.

Our Grand Rapids ENT otolaryngologists are physicians specifically trained in the treatment and management of ear and hearing, nose, and throat concerns. Our audiologists are specialists in hearing and hearing rehabilitation. Never hesitate to ask your specialist for clarification or further information on anything you do not understand.

What Can I Expect During a Diagnostic Audiologic Evaluation?

Before your appointment, a complete medical history will be completed and our medical staff will want to hear about any complaints you have about your hearing. He or she will pay special attention to any concerns you have about exposure to noise, tinnitus, and balance problems. Make sure that you take a full list of any medications and supplements you are taking with you to your appointment.

During your hearing examination at Grand Rapids ENT Hearing Center, you will usually be seated inside a sound-treated room and have headphones placed over your ears or foam insert earphones placed in your ear canals.  These headphones/earphones are connected to the audiometer which will be used to precisely measure your hearing levels at various frequencies (pitches).  Your provider will explain the test results in detail to you.  If your test results indicate a hearing loss, your physician or audiologist will advise you on the appropriate plan of treatment.

If the determination is made that you need hearing aids, allow for sufficient time to discuss your options.  It is recommended that you bring a family member with you to the evaluation appointment. Most providers agree that hearing loss is a family issue. It helps to have another supportive person at the appointment to help you understand the information and recommendations. You will want to be clear on any information you receive so that you can be an active participant in finding hearing solutions that work best for you and your lifestyle.