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Evaluating Hearing Disorders

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Auditory screenings detect whether an in-depth evaluation is necessary. In this lesson, we'll learn about the need for and types of different tests used to assess hearing disorders in infants, kids, and adults.

Hearing Screenings and Evaluations

As of the year 2000, it was estimated that at least 28 million people in the United States had some problem with their ability to hear (also known as an auditory disorder). Monitoring auditory capabilities is critical at any age.

Infants can experience severe delays in developing language skills if a problem with their hearing goes undetected for too long. Children with untreated hearing problems have a harder time learning in school and struggle with verbal communication. Adults gradually lose their hearing due to aging, so monitoring auditory function should be a part of regular checkups with a general doctor.

A screening usually comes first as a fast and inexpensive way to assess potential problems with hearing. A screening test is generally a pass or fail type of test, and if a person fails, then they would go to an audiologist (doctor that specializes in hearing and hearing disorders) for a more thorough and in-depth hearing evaluation. An evaluation can identify the type and degree of hearing loss as well as potential treatments.

Screening and Evaluating Infants

All newborn babies undergo auditory screening tests, though, for obvious reasons, it may be necessary to repeat the test if the results are inconclusive. Ear phones are placed in the infant's ears and noise is played; the person evaluating monitors the baby for a response.

If further testing is required, there are two types of tests commonly used with infants. The first is called an otoacoustic emissions (OAE) test. This test uses a small probe to look for evidence of a sound response in the middle ear. An OAE test can detect blockages in the outer ear as well as fluid or damage to the hair cells in the middle ear.

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