A vast majority of hearing loss cases develop gradually over time, making them difficult to detect until they’re advanced. Whether you’re visiting a Littleton hearing loss doctor for a hearing health checkup or a specific audiological concern, chances are you’ll need a hearing assessment during your first appointment.
Hearing tests don’t just tell your audiologist whether your hearing is normal or impaired—they also reveal the type, frequency, severity and scope of your hearing loss.
Hearing loss affects tens of millions of Americans, but only 1 in 5 people get treatment for their condition in Littleton. Hearing tests are often the only way to diagnose hearing loss in its preliminary stages and are recommended for patients of all ages. Infants, toddlers, school-aged children and adults over 50 should receive hearing assessments annually or biennially, while teens and adults under 50 should test their hearing at least once every five years.
What Happens During Hearing Assessments?
Complete hearing assessments in Littleton include a physical examination, a review of your medical and hearing health history and a battery of hearing tests, each of which reveals something important about your hearing health. Hearing tests are fast, simple and painless. The results from your hearing assessment will be charted on an audiogram and explained to you in depth by a hearing loss professional.
Hearing tests can reveal a lot about hearing loss, including:
There are seven levels of hearing loss spanning from normal to profound. The severity of your hearing loss is determined based on what sounds you can and cannot hear in quiet and noisy environments.
There are three types of hearing loss based on the part of your ear that’s damaged. Conductive hearing loss is related to the outer or middle ear; sensorineural hearing loss, which accounts for 9 in 10 impairments, describes inner ear problems; and mixed hearing loss is diagnosed in patients with both conductive and sensorineural damage.
Bone conduction testing bypasses the middle ear and stimulates the inner ear directly. The patient’s responses (or lack of responses) to the signals delivered during this test allows doctors to determine the type of hearing loss present.
Hearing loss usually affects a certain range of sounds that are either high or low in pitch. Patients with high-frequency hearing loss, the most common kind, struggle to hear treble sounds like women’s and children’s voices, birds chirping or the ringing sound from a doorbell, alarm clock or phone. Conversely, low-frequency hearing loss results in patients struggling to hear deep sounds like low-pitched men’s voices, thunder or instruments like basses, cellos or tubas.
Pure tone audiometry tests deliver sounds at varying volumes and frequencies and are a helpful tool in assessing what frequencies you can and can’t hear.
Most patients in Littleton have similar hearing abilities in both ears, resulting in what’s called bilateral hearing loss. In some cases, though, hearing loss can develop in one ear and not the other. This is called unilateral hearing loss.
Many hearing tests are administered in each individual ear as well as in both ears simultaneously, allowing your audiologist to assess your hearing abilities on each side and together for a look at your auditory system as a whole.
Hearing is more than just the ability to identify when noise is present; it requires patients to process and understand the sounds entering the auditory system. Some patients hear in the normal decibel level range but struggle to differentiate speech sounds from background noise.
Word and speech tests are commonly used to assess speech reception and word recognition in varying levels of background noise. These can reveal hearing problems in patients whose hearing otherwise tests normally.