Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a hearing screening and a hearing evaluation?
Screenings are preliminary tests used to determine whether a patient has a hearing loss. Think of it as a pass/fail exam: If the results indicate a hearing loss, a more detailed evaluation is required.
On the other hand, evaluations are an in-depth series of tests conducted by an audiologist used to measure the type, degree and configuration of the impairment and identify the steps necessary for treatment.
Measuring Hearing Loss
A typical hearing evaluation may consist of any combination of the following tests: pure-tone (air conduction) audiometry, bone conduction testing, speech testing, inner ear testing (Auditory Brainstem Response, Otoacoustic Emissions) and middle ear testing (tympanometry, acoustic reflex).
The three main types of hearing impairments are conductive (outer or middle ear), sensorineural (cochlea and inner ear) or mixed (both conductive and sensorineural) hearing loss—all referring to each respective part of the hearing system that has been damaged.
The degree of hearing loss refers to its severity. Hearing loss is measured in decibels (dB) and ranges from normal (-10 to 15 dB) to profound (91+ dB). It is classified as follows:
- Normal: -10 to 15 dB
- Slight: 16 to 25 dB
- Mild: 26 to 40 dB
- Moderate: 41 to 55 dB
- Moderately Severe: 56 to 70 dB
- Severe: 71 to 90 dB
- Profound: 91+ dB
Hearing loss configuration refers to the pattern of loss across frequencies, as charted on a patient’s audiogram—a visual representation of a patient’s hearing profile.
An individual whose loss affects the high tones is described as having high-frequency hearing loss; the configuration would show good hearing at lower pitches and poor hearing at higher pitches. Other types of hearing loss configurations include:
- Bilateral (hearing loss affects both ears) vs. unilateral (single-sided hearing loss)
- Symmetrical (hearing loss is similar in both ears) vs. asymmetrical (hearing loss can vary in degree and configuration in each ear)
- Progressive (a steady decline in hearing ability) vs. sudden (hearing loss occurs rapidly and without warning)
- Fluctuating (hearing loss changes over time; it may get worse or better) vs. stable (hearing loss remains the same)
As you can see, hearing evaluations are much more dynamic than hearing screeners. However, both are equally crucial tools you and your audiologist can use to determine your best hearing care strategy. Without hearing screeners, we don’t even know where your hearing may stand.
Hearing screeners are quick, baseline maps imperative to the start of your better hearing journey. And the technology has evolved to the point where you can take one virtually, on your own schedule.
Want to give one a try to see where your hearing stands? Check out our FREE online screener tool, today!