Our approach to hearing health is rooted in a comprehensive evaluation using these four advanced diagnostic tests

Comprehensive Understanding of Middle Ear Tests: Audiometry, Tympanometry, Acoustic Reflex, and OAEs

by | Jan 9, 2024 | Patient Resources

At Utah Ear Institute, we prioritize a thorough evaluation of hearing health, which includes an array of specialized tests focused on the middle ear 

These tests—audiometry, tympanometry, acoustic reflex testing, and otoacoustic emission testing—are integral in diagnosing and managing hearing conditions. But just what are each of these tests? That’s exactly what this article will be delving into. 

Tympanometry: Gauging Middle Ear Function 

Tympanometry plays a crucial role in evaluating middle ear function. This test measures how the eardrum responds to changes in air pressure. It can detect fluid in the middle ear, eardrum perforations, and Eustachian tube dysfunction, all of which can impact hearing. 

By introducing a variable pressure into the ear canal and measuring the eardrum’s movement, tympanometry helps in diagnosing various middle ear pathologies. 

Pure-Tone Audiometry: The Cornerstone of Hearing Assessment  

Pure-tone audiometry is the foundational test for assessing hearing loss. It determines the quietest sounds you can hear at different pitches, aiding in the classification of hearing loss—determining whether it is conductive, sensorineural, or mixed. 

Conducted in a sound-treated environment, it involves presenting a series of beeps or tones through headphones or bone conduction. The resulting audiogram visually represents your hearing thresholds, guiding further diagnostic and treatment plans. 

Speech Audiometry: Evaluating Speech Perception  

Speech audiometry tests are vital in understanding how well you can understand and process speech. They include speech reception threshold (SRT) testing, where you repeat two-syllable words at different volume levels, and speech discrimination testing, which assesses your ability to understand single-syllable words at a comfortable listening level. 

These scores help determine your ability to understand speech in everyday situations and are crucial in tailoring hearing aid programming. 

Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs): Assessing Cochlear Health 

OAEs are critical in evaluating cochlear (inner ear) function. They measure sounds emitted by the cochlea in response to auditory stimuli, reflecting the health of the outer hair cells. OAE testing is quick, noninvasive, and essential for diagnosing hearing loss, especially in newborns, children, or individuals unable to respond reliably in traditional hearing tests. 

Why These Tests Matter: A Deeper Dive 

Each test plays a unique role in the overall assessment of your hearing health: 

  • Tympanometry:

This test can detect fluid in the middle ear, a common cause of temporary hearing loss, especially in children. It’s also essential in monitoring middle ear conditions post-treatment. 

  • PureTone Audiometry: 

This test helps in identifying the degree of hearing loss (mild, moderate, severe, profound) and its nature, whether it’s due to age, noise exposure, or other factors. 

  • Speech Audiometry:

Beyond just hearing sounds, understanding speech is crucial. This test’s results are especially important in complex listening environments and in counseling patients about realistic expectations from hearing aids. 

  • OAEs:

Crucial for early identification of hearing loss, OAEs are indispensable in pediatric audiology. They are also useful in monitoring cochlear health in individuals exposed to ototoxic medications or high levels of noise. 

When to Undergo These Tests  

These tests are recommended in various scenarios: 

  • Regular Screening:

Especially for individuals with a family history of hearing loss or those exposed to occupational noise. 

  • Noticing Hearing Changes:

Such as difficulty in understanding speech, tinnitus (ringing in ears), or after exposure to loud noise. 

  • Post-Medical Treatment:

Especially if certain medications known to affect hearing have been used. 

  • Children’s Hearing Screening:

Critical for early intervention in cases of congenital or early-onset hearing loss. 

Book Your Detailed Hearing Evaluation

At Utah Ear Institute, our approach to hearing health is rooted in a comprehensive evaluation using these four advanced diagnostic tests.

By thoroughly understanding your hearing profile, we can develop a tailored treatment strategy that addresses your specific needs and enhances your quality of life. 

Get in touch with us today and take the first step toward understanding your hearing health. 

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Dr. Joshua Luekenga, Au.D., F-AAA, CCC-A, Audiologist

Dr. Joshua Luekenga is an audiologist and founder of The Utah Ear Institute which is comprised of 5 comprehensive clinics throughout Utah and Wyoming. He specializes in vestibular and balance diagnostics. He also evaluates and treats hearing disorders, Tinnitus, Auditory Processing Disorders (APD), Misophonia and Hyperacusis.

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