Visiting an Audiologist: What to Expect at a Hearing Exam


If you are one of the 30 million adults with at least some measure of hearing loss, you may be wondering what you need to do to prepare for your audiologist visit and what it entails. Many American adults have not had a hearing test, or audiological exam, since childhood. It is recommended by American Speech-Language Association, that even healthy adults ages 18-40 years old, who are not experiencing any noticeable hearing loss, should have their hearing tested every three to five years, and adults 60+ years old should have an annual hearing test.

What to Know Before You Go

While a hearing test is a simple and painless examination, some preparations may help you make the most of your visit. The initial part of your audiologist visit will be a full review of your medical history. This step includes listing significant health events, chronic illnesses, and medications, as any of these factors may impact your hearing. Having this information with you will make the intake process easier and more effective since you are less likely to forget any vital information.

Consider bringing a friend or family member, as they can offer information on when your symptoms or diminished hearing began. Many instances of hearing loss are first noticed by people you communicate with regularly. As a bonus, bringing a loved one along can help ease any anxiety and help you remember details of your conversation with the audiologist.

Arriving at your exam with your ears healthy, rested, and clean allows your audiologist to obtain the most accurate results. Do not schedule a hearing test when you are experiencing any cold or allergy symptoms resulting in a “clogging” of your ears, and try not avoiding exposure to loud noise for at least 12-24 hours before your exam.

At the Exam

After your audiologist reviews your medical history, your exam will usually begin with an otoscopy. Your audiologist will insert a tool called an otoscope into each ear. An otoscope is a hand-held tool that shines light into your ear canal, allowing your audiologist to see your eardrum. This exam will show any blockages or wax in your ear and allow them to determine if there is any damage to your eardrum.

Following the otoscopy, your audiologist will administer at least two hearing tests conducted through headphones or foam eartip inserts in a soundproof sound room. The first test will consist of your audiologist sending a series of tones of various frequencies (pitches) and decibels (volumes) through the headphones to each ear while you indicate if you heard it. In the second test, you will be asked to identify a list of softly-spoken words which helps the audiologist determine how well you’re able to discern consonants in speech. There’s a difference between hearing and understanding, and your audiologist want to make sure you’re able to do both!

Audiologists may conduct several additional diagnostic tests such as tympanometry, otoacoustic emissions (OAE), to help them gather more information and determine the specific causes for a patient’s hearing loss.

Discussing Your Results

Once your exam is complete, your audiologist will discuss the results of your otoscopy exam and hearing tests and explain areas where you may be experiencing hearing loss and why. Exposure to excessive noise over time is the most common reasons for hearing loss, but there are many other potential causes.

If your audiology exam indicates a hearing instrument would benefit you, you may be fitted for one on at your exam, or asked to schedule a follow-up visit. Before recommending a device, your audiologist will review your lifestyle, budget, and other preferences you may have such as connectivity to your cell phone or TV. They will also advise on any changes you can make to protect your hearing further.

Making an initial appointment with an audiologist might be a new experience, but it could be one of the most important steps you ever take to improve your live. Never let fear or uncertainty stop you from having your hearing tested. Hearing is one of our most important senses; it affects our ability to connect with the world around us, especially our loved ones.Untreated hearing loss is extremely serious and has been linked to an increased risk of injury from falls, dementia, and workplace injuries. Take your hearing health seriously! Protect your ears from loud noise and encourage immediately address any symptoms of hearing loss with an audiologist. With the help of modern hearing care and hearing devices, you can live life to the fullest.

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