What to Expect at an Audiology Visit
The first step toward managing hearing loss is a comprehensive audiological evaluation. The purpose of an audiological evaluation is to determine the type of hearing loss and the severity or degree of the loss. It is important to know the type of hearing loss, since some types of hearing loss are medically treatable by the Ear Nose and Throat Specialist. Other types of hearing losses are not medically treatable, but may be managed through hearing aids or other listening devices.
Knowing the degree of hearing loss determines the appropriate type of rehabilitative approach. Mild, moderate and sometimes severe degrees of hearing loss may be helped by traditional hearing aids, while severe and profound losses can often be surgically managed with a cochlear implant. Unilateral (affects only one ear) or conductive (involves the structures of the middle ear) hearing losses may be treated surgically or with certain types of hearing aids or implantable devices.
Infants and young children need to be tested by audiologists who are specially trained in pediatric testing techniques. The UNC Hospitals pediatric audiologists are recognized both statewide and nationally for their contributions to the field of Pediatric Audiology.
Testing of adults may include otoscopic examination in which the audiologist looks into the ear with a light to see if wax that may affect the hearing test is present, assessment of hearing sensitivity using earphones and bone conducted sounds, and evaluation of speech understanding. Otoacoustic emissions and immittance may be indicated for adults as well.
All testing is completed in a sound treated room called a sound booth with equipment that is regularly maintained and calibrated. The length of an audiologic evaluation will vary based on the needs of the patient. For most adults the evaluation will last approximately 30 minutes while a child may require an hour or more.
If testing reveals the need for further medical evaluation, the audiologists are able to refer the patient to one of the highly experienced Ear Nose and Throat Specialists from the Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery located in the adjoining clinic.