What is it?
Audiology is the diagnosis and treatment of hearing related issues.
Do I need this service?
You may be experiencing hearing loss and there can be a number of reasons for this. You should see your GP or directly book an appointment if you have the following:
- Pain or discharge (fluid)
- Vertigo (dizziness)
- Hearing loss
- Previous, relevant medical problems
There are a number of tests that an audiologist can carry out to determine your level of hearing.
Pure Tone Audiometry (PTA)
Pure tone audiometry tests your hearing in both ears using a machine called an audiometer which produces sound at varying volumes and frequencies (pitches). During the test you will be wearing headphones and will press a button whenever you hear the sound.
The speech perception test, or speech audiometry, is used to test your ability to hear words without the use of visual information. You will either hear these through headphones or a speaker, occasionally they may be spoken by the tester.
The tester may also decide to include the use of a controlled level of background noise.
The purpose of this test is to ensure that there is no fluid behind the eardrum by measuring the movement of it as well as the pressure behind it. It can also indicate if the Eustachian tube is functioning properly. During the test you will have a small plastic bung sealing your ear and a machine will gently change the pressure in your ear canal.
Tuning Fork Test
The purpose of a tuning fork is to help determine if you have conductive hearing loss, a condition caused by sounds being unable to pass through into the inner ear, or sensorineural hearing loss which is brought on by the hearing nerve or inner ear not working properly.
Each tuning fork is set at a fixed pitch and the tester will tap it on their knee or elbow to make it vibrate before holding it at different places around your head.
Bone Conductive Test
Conducted as part of a routine pure tone audiometry test the bone conductive test involves placing a vibrating probe against the mastoid bone behind the ear, and is used to ascertain how well sounds transmitted through the bone are heard. This is a more accurate test than the simple tuning fork as it can measure issues that you may have in the eardrum, ear canal, or hearing bones.
Whispered Voice Test
One of the simplest tests that can be used to judge your level of hearing and involves nothing more than the tester blocking one of your ears and whispering words at varying volumes, all you have to do is repeat them at the same level.
Depending on the cause of your hearing loss there are a number of different treatments available. If it is conductive (sound unable to pass into the inner ear) this is often caused by treatable conditions such as earwax build up, bacterial infection, fluid build-up, or a perforated ear drum. If, however, the hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear or nerves (sensorineural hearing loss) this is permanent and will require more sophisticated treatment.
The main type of treatment available to people with sensorineural hearing loss is hearing aids. It’s believed that there are 4 million people in the UK that would benefit from wearing a hearing aid, but don’t. Hearing aid technology has improved vastly in the last decade with the introduction of digital over the much larger and less effective analogue ones.
It’s best to get hearing aids as soon as you know you need them because the sooner you start wearing one, the more you will get out of them. They will help you keep up in conversations, feel more confident in groups or when you’re out, as well as for more mundane things such as hearing the phone or doorbell, or making you more aware of your surroundings whilst driving.
Hearing Aid Choices
BTE aids have an earmould that rests inside your ear and another one that sits behind the ear. BTE aids use two microphones that can be focused on sounds in the general vicinity or targeted in a specific direction.
Receiver in-the-ear (RITE)
RITE aids are like BTE aids except the piece that rests behind the ear is connected by a wire to a receiver (loudspeaker) that sits in the ear canal, generally making these hearing aids much less visible.
ITE aids are an earmould containing all the required electronics that sit just outside the ear canal and fill the surrounding area.
ITC aids sit at the out part of the ear canal making them barely visible.
Completely in-the-canal (CIC)
Being smaller than both ITE and ITC hearing aids the CIC aids sit inside the ear canal making them one of the most discrete hearing aids. These, however, will not be recommended for you if you have severe hearing loss or are prone to ear infections.
These are just a few of the options available to you. If you require a more powerful hearing aid your specialist will go through the details with you.