Penn’s audiologists first determine the patients type and degree of hearing loss and whether or not the best treatment would be surgical or medical, or if a hearing device would be beneficial. We use the latest advancements in diagnostic techniques to make these determinations.
There are three types of hearing loss: conductive, mixed and sensorineural. Conductive hearing loss results from problems with the ear canal, middle ear or eardrum. This kind of loss can result from trauma, ear infections, or a problem with the tiny bones in the ear. In contrast, sensorineural hearing loss is usually caused by noise exposure, hereditary factors or the aging process. A mixed hearing loss occurs when there are both conductive and sensorineural components.
Audiology Diagnostic Tests and Tools
The highly complex architecture of the ear requires a variety of testing to achieve an accurate diagnosis. There are a number of tests an audiologist may perform to identify the cause and degree of a patient’s hearing loss and to establish an appropriate individualized plan. Penn Audiology employs the following state-of-the-art equipment and diagnostic techniques.
Pure tone and speech audiometry assessment: measures auditory acuity at varying pitches and tests a patient’s ability to hear and discriminate speech. During the assessment, a patient is seated in a large, sound-treated booth. Sounds are delivered through earplugs or a vibrating device placed behind the patient’s ear. The patient is asked to respond when hearing the sound.
Acoustic immittance, tympanometry, and acoustic reflex studies: evaluate the integrity of multiple structures and muscles in the middle ear. During this procedure, a small probe is placed in the patient's ear. The patient may feel pressure changes and hear sounds during the evaluation.
Otoacoustic emissions (OAEs): testing evaluates the functioning of the cochlear or inner ear hair cells. A tiny microphone positioned in the ear automatically measures acoustic signals generated by hair cells in response to auditory stimulation. This evaluation can provide the audiologist with objective information about the integrity of these hair cells, which are used for hearing. It can also be useful in monitoring patients who are taking special antibiotics or chemotherapy medications, which can sometimes affect hearing.
Auditory brainstem response testing (ABR) evaluates the integrity of the nerve that runs from the inner ear to the brain. Electrodes are placed on the patient's scalp while they sit quietly listening to clicking sounds.