If you suspect you or your child are experiencing hearing problems, don’t wait to get help. Certified audiologists across the Sutter Health network offer a full range of hearing tests and evaluations to assess hearing loss.
Tests conducted by an audiologist can determine hearing loss, eardrum and middle ear pathology, and neurological communication deficits from the ear to the brain.
After testing is completed, your audiologist will explain the results to help you understand the symptoms you're experiencing. Depending on your diagnosis, the audiologist may recommend surgical intervention or rehabilitation with hearing aids or other assistive devices.
Here are some of the main types of hearing tests frequently used for adults and children:
- Auditory brainstem response (ABR) screenings decipher whether your hearing capabilities are at a normal level. The test compares changes in brain activity to the timing of repetitive sounds to determine whether the particular intensity of sound can be heard.
- Behavioral hearing tests require you to respond to soft sounds in some way, such as verbally, by pointing at images, or raising your hand.
- Conventional audiometry requires raising your hand whenever you hear a tone. Different frequencies and thresholds of detection are measured in each ear.
- Behavioral observation audiometry involves sitting in a sound booth while an audiologist measures behavioral responses to speech and warble tones. The audiologist looks for subtle changes in breathing, eye widening or startle responses.
- Visual reinforcement audiometry (VRA) is typically used on infants and young children. When a tonal sound, speech or music is presented, the infant's eye-shift or head-turn response toward the sound source is rewarded by activation of a lighted mechanical toy mounted near the loudspeaker. The child's attention then is distracted back to the midline by an audiologist so that additional sounds can be presented.
- Conditioned play audiometry is conducted while a young child wears headphones. The child is shown how to perform a repetitive play task, such as placing a peg in a pegboard, each time they hear a sound.
- Otoacoustic emission testing examines the function of the cochlea. Sounds are sent to the ear with a small loudspeaker. A microphone then records the response to the sound from the cochlea, offering valuable information about the sensory hair cells in the cochlea.
- Tympanometry is a test used to detect problems in the middle ear.
Different Types of Hearing Loss
Audiologists can help determine if you have hearing loss and what type it is. If you have sensorineural hearing loss, your inner ear or auditory nerves have been significantly damaged. This type of hearing loss is not medically or surgically treatable, but use of hearing aids or other amplification devices are very effective. If you have conductive hearing loss due to damage or blockage in the outer or middle ear, you may be referred to an ear, nose and throat doctor to learn about surgery for hearing loss, hearing aids and other treatment options. Some people also experience a mix of both types of hearing loss.