Hearing Screening vs. Hearing Evaluation

What's the Difference?

Looking to get your hearing checked? You actually have two options — a hearing screening and a hearing evaluation. We'll go over the difference between the two.

Hearing loss isn't always obvious at first. Especially when it's age-related, the onset tends to be gradual — so much so that you might not even notice until the signs are too obvious to ignore. There's a reason that some of the most common symptoms of age-related hearing loss relate to the people around you. 

Maybe you turn up the volume so loud that your family starts to complain. Maybe your partner constantly has to repeat themself around you. Maybe it seems like your family is constantly mumbling or speaking unclearly. 

Either way, the point is that you won't always know you're losing your hearing at first. That's why it's so important to get your hearing tested regularly. In that regard, you have two options — a hearing screening or a hearing test.

Let's talk about how the two differ from one another, and how you can decide between them.

 

Hearing Screenings

Often, a hearing exam will begin with a screening — a simple pass or fail test that helps an audiologist if further evaluation is necessary.  You may be subjected to a hearing screening upon your first visit to an audiologist.  Children are frequently screened at birth, as well.

The most common type of hearing screening is a pure tone audiometry test. Your audiologist will hand you a pair of headphones and have you sit in a special soundproof booth. They'll then transmit a range of different tones and frequencies through the headphones; you'll be required to indicate each sound you hear to the audiologist, typically through an accompanying device. 

Hearing screenings can actually be performed online, as well, without requiring you to leave the house. With that said, we'd advise viewing the results of these tests with a grain of salt. A screening done at an audiologist's office uses specialized, standardized equipment. 

On the other hand, the accuracy of a hearing test carried out at home may be compromised by a range of different factors: 

  • Your device's sound card

  • Your headphones or speakers

  • Background noise/interference in your home

  • Initial configuration 

Home hearing screenings, therefore, are not a diagnostic tool. Instead, you can use them to determine if it may be worthwhile to visit an audiologist for further evaluation. They may also be used in tandem with telemedicine. 

At any rate, once your screening has been completed, the results will be compiled into an audiogram. If, on viewing the data, the audiologist identifies the possibility of hearing loss, you'll typically be asked to undergo a more thorough evaluation. That brings us to the second type of hearing exam.

 

Hearing Evaluations

Pure-tone exams are useful for determining the potential presence of hearing loss, but they offer little insight as to type, severity, and overall prognosis. In order to determine the exact nature of your hearing impairment, they'll need to go a bit more in-depth. Alongside a physical examination of your ears, this may involve any or all of the following diagnostic procedures: 

  • Bone Conduction Testing. Via a small ear-mounted device, the audiologist transmits vibrations to the inner ear via a small ear-mounted device. This can help the audiologist identify potential issues with the outer or middle ear, and also more accurately determine the specific type of hearing loss you may be experiencing. 

  • Speech Testing. Your audiologist will have you listen to various types of speech both with and without background noise. 

  • Tympanometry. This type of test uses small bursts of air to detect the presence of fluid in the middle ear, blockages in the outer ear, or damage to the eardrum. 

  • Acoustic Reflex Testing. Measures the response of the muscles in the inner ear to higher-intensity sound. 

  • Auditory Brainstem Response. This more advanced type of hearing test sees the audiologist measure your brainwave activity in response to different types of sounds. ABR tests are typically used to detect hearing loss in newborns and non-verbal patients. They're also applied in suspected cases of sensorineural hearing loss. 

  • Otoacoustic Emission Testing. The audiologist inserts a small probe into your inner ear to measure the vibrations of your stereocilia in response to sound. This is frequently used to screen newborns for hearing loss. 

As you've probably guessed, many of the above tests may be used interchangeably between screening and evaluation. Once your audiologist has determined the exact nature of your hearing loss, they'll work to determine the possible causes. Finally, they'll go over possible treatment options with you. Visit one of our trusted hearing clinics. .

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