An audiologist is one of the most important people when it comes to your hearing health. They are highly qualified clinicians who evaluate, diagnose, treat and manage hearing loss and tinnitus.
They help people at all stages of life, from newborns through to seniors, though some may specialise in certain areas. Their role incorporates conducting hearing assessments, hearing aid prescription, fitting and management of hearing aids as well as rehabilitation and evaluation of more complex hearing concerns.
Audiologists have an undergraduate university degree as well as a two-year master’s degree in audiology. To keep up with continual advances and research in hearing sciences and human communications, their training is on-going throughout their whole career.
So, in essence an audiologist is a good person to speak to about any questions or concerns you may have around hearing health.
How will an audiologist test my child’s hearing?
Audiologists can use a number of different test procedures and sound delivery methods to investigate the auditory system. The choice depends on what information is needed about the auditory system and the age and level of cooperation of the person being tested.
By comparing the hearing test results for air-conducted sound and bone-conducted sound, the audiologist can find out if the outer or middle ear systems are involved in the hearing loss.
Pure Tone Audiometry
For older children and adults the most common testing method is pure tone audiometry. Frequency-specific sounds are delivered to the ear and the child is taught to do something every time the sound is heard. The intensity of sound is adjusted to find the softest level the child can detect – in each ear, for each different sound. The results are recorded on a graph called the audiogram. This graph is often referred to as the Pure Tone Audiogram (PTA) and is widely accepted as the gold standard or ultimate assessment of peripheral hearing function.
When we hear everyday sounds, the sound vibrations travel down into our ears through the air. Once the sounds reach the eardrum, the sound waves are turned into a mechanical vibration. This mechanical vibration is then delivered into the inner ear (the cochlea). This pathway for sound delivery is called air conduction. Loudspeakers, headphones or small insert earphones can all be used to deliver sound for air conduction testing.
Hearing can also be tested by placing a small vibrator (bone conductor) on the bone behind the ear and measuring the softest sounds that can be heard. Sounds presented this way vibrate through the bones of the skull, straight into the cochlea. This method of sound delivery is called bone conduction, which bypasses the structures of outer and middle ear.