The Value Of Using Audiometers

By Marissa Velazquez


Audiometers are invaluable in the testing of hearing loss. They allow the audiologist to determine the degree and the type of loss a patient has as well as their discomfort and tolerance to speech stimuli and their ability to recognize words. Information gathered helps in the determination of amplification devices and the proper hearing aids to prescribe.

Audiometry is done in a testing room made up of 2 rooms, an equipment room and an evaluation room. The equipment room contains the audiometer, input devices such as microphones, tape recorders, and CD's for testing. Tests are performed using earphones and are sent to one or both of them. They can also be done through a bone-conductor vibrator. Materials can also be presented through loudspeakers in the sound-field.

Some techniques used are testing speech awareness thresholds to get the lowest level at which speech can be heard at least 50 percent of the time. Spondaic words are used as they have equal emphasis on each syllable, are easily understood, and contain information in each syllable that allow reasonable accurate guesses. It is a great test for younger patients, those who speak another language, or those who have neurological damage.

Speech recognition threshold measures the lowest level at which speech can be recognized at least half of the time. Spondaic words are used for this test as well. It determines the softest level that words can be heard and repeated and it validates pure-tone thresholds. It measures appropriate gain during hearing aid selection.

The suprathreshold word recognition testing shows the ability to repeat and understand conversation using one syllable words, it is also known as speech or word discrimination testing. The words used are phonetically balanced and either a tape, CD, or a live person presents the test. The words are repeated by the patient to the audiologist with each correct answer receiving 2 points. When an 80 percent score is achieved the test is over, otherwise it will continue. Patients wearing their hearing aids also take this test to check improvement in their hearing.

Testing young children requires other methods of testing than with adults. They often have limited skills with language, especially with severe hearing losses. Picture cards are used that represent spondaic words. Children are asked before the testing if they understand what the cards represent for accurate results. A list of words selected especially for children is used for kindergarten through first grade.

A popular test for children is one where they identify cards by pointing to them. Word intelligibility testing consists of 25 pages of colored pictures that represent something named by a monosyllabic word. This test is used for children with hearing impairment and can be used for children ages 4 and older. The Northwestern University speech testing was developed for children 3 and older. Pediatric speech intelligibility testing uses both sentences and monosyllabic words where children point to the appropriate picture, this test is for children ages 3 and older.

Some other options for children are the phonetically balanced kindergarten test, the pediatric speech intelligibility test, or the Bamford-Kowal-Bench speech in noise test. Early detection will ensure that both children and adults live a normal life, develop socially and academically and are able to communicate with others. A good audiologist makes all the difference when testing with audiometers.




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