The Hearing Tests, part two

Glen Sutherland, MCIs
Audiologist

HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope you had a delightful Holiday Season. Here’s to a wonderful year ahead!

In previous posts I have explained some of the tests that you should expect to experience during your first hearing assessment appointment. So far, I have reviewed otoscopy, impedance and puretone testing. Following is a short review of each of these tests but for more detailed information, read my previous posts. Just click on the category “Thoughts from an Audiologist” to the right of the screen on Rosemary’s blog, Read My Lips.

During the otoscopic examination, the clinician checks the outer part of the ear (the part you can see at the sides of your head) to make sure everything looks okay. Then s/he looks down the ear canal to make sure it is clear to proceed with the hearing test.

Impedance testing includes a series of tests that help the clinician determine if the middle ear is working properly or not and if the ear is able to transmit the sound waves through the middle ear into the inner ear.

Perhaps the most familiar hearing test to our readers is the puretone test or “the test where you hear the beeps and you raise your hand or push a button or say ‘beep’ every time you hear a beep”. The puretone test determines your ‘threshold of hearing’ or the lowest level where you just barely hear sounds (the beeps). The clinician records the softest level that you hear on a graph called an audiogram. S/he will be able to compare your hearing graph to a graph of normal hearing to determine your degree of hearing loss.

In addition to the tests I have just reviewed, typically most clinicians conduct a series of speech tests to determine how well you perceive speech, where you find speech comfortable to listen to and where you find speech uncomfortable. These tests include the Most Comfortable Listening test, the Uncomfortable Listening test, the Speech Reception Threshold test and the Word Discrimination test.

The Most Comfortable Listening Test (MCL):

The MCL test determines the loudness at which you prefer to listen to speech. The clinician will talk to you through the audiometer, ask you some questions or have you listen to a poem or a story while the level of the sound is raised and lowered. As you listen, you indicate to the clinician the level when the sound is comfortable to hear. The clinician will record the level at which speech is easy and comfortable for you to hear and understand speech.

The Most Uncomfortable Listening Test (UCL):

The UCL test indicates the loudest level at which you can stand to listen to sound. As the name would suggest, the sound is uncomfortable and anything above that level would approach being painful. The clinician will talk to you through the audiometer, ask you some questions and have you listen to a poem or a story while the level of the sound is slowly increased. As you listen, you determine when the sound is uncomfortable to hear, much too loud! The clinician will record the level that you indicate.

The Speech Reception Threshold Test (SRT):

The SRT determines the threshold of your hearing for speech; that is to say, the lowest level that you can hear two-syllable words 50% of the time. The clinician will acquaint you with some two-syllable words: airplane, iceberg, baseball, etc. Once you know the words that the clinician will say, the clinician will repeat the words through the audiometer and make them softer and softer. You will repeat the words as long as you can hear them. The clinician will record the softest sound for speech on the audiogram.

The Word Discrimination Score (WDS):

The WDS is the percentage of words that you can repeat accurately from a list, typically presented at your most comfortable listening level (MCL). The clinician presents the words at one level and you repeat back the word that you hear. The clinician records which words you repeat correctly and which words you repeat incorrectly and calculates the percentage of correctly repeated words and records that score as your WDS. This test can be completed for each ear and then binaurally (the speech going into both ears at the same time).

These tests, in addition to the tests which have been explained in my last few posts, form the battery of tests used to assess your hearing. Once the hearing assessment is completed, the clinician should review the results with you, thoroughly explaining what they mean and the implications of the results to you. Depending on the outcome of the results, the clinician will make suggestions and recommendations about what you should do next. For example, the clinician may recommend that you see your doctor for a referral to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist or you may be ready to get hearing aids. The results of the hearing assessment will help your clinician guide you in the direction you need to go!

Disclaimer
Please note that the information in this blog is presented for the purpose of providing information and should not be used for medical diagnosis or treatment nor should it be used in place of medical advice from your doctor or hearing health care professional.

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One response to “The Hearing Tests, part two

  1. Thanks, Glen and Rosemary.. I’ll file this useful information for when I might need it… Paul too

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