Hearing loss for both children and adults is a significant problem. Out of every 1,000 children in the United States, two to three are born with a detectable hearing loss in one or both ears. Doctors are able to detect hearing issues with a hearing screening or hearing evaluation, but what is the difference between the two?

Hearing Screening

This is a quick, preliminary hearing test to determine if patients need further hearing tests. There are only the options of passing it or failing it, but if you fail it that doesn’t mean you have definite hearing loss, simply that you need more in-depth hearing evaluations. Before infants leave the hospital they have a hearing screening to assess any initial problems, and school-aged children have screenings at school or the doctor’s office. Adults can also have a hearing screening at their doctor’s office or local health fairs. It’s advised that you get a hearing screening once every 10 years up to the age of 50, and then a screening every three years. Hearing loss tends to happen as you get older and regular screenings will ensure that you keep track of the state of your hearing.

Hearing Evaluation

This is a complete hearing test performed by an audiologist. The audiologist will talk to you about the type of hearing loss you have, how severe it is, possible causes for your hearing loss, and possible treatment options. These are a few of the possible tests they would perform:

  • Audiometry: Your hearing is tested by a range of frequencies, typically from 250 to 8,000 Hz. This helps to determine which frequencies you hear best at.
  • Tympanometry: This test focuses on the function of your middle ear by evaluating the stiffness of your eardrum.
  • Speech Testing: This type of test evaluates your ability to hear words at different thresholds and then repeat them back. Often these tests are done in noisy environments to assess someone’s ability to hear with noise in the background.
  • Electrocochleography (ECOG): A more advanced test that is often used to diagnose Meniere’s disease and other disorders, an ECOG assesses electrical potentials that the cochlea creates when exposed to sound. Earphones are placed in the ear canal to transmit a sound and then electrodes on the forehead pick up the cochlea’s response. Your audiologist will then be able to interpret the resulting waves to determine how the cochlea is functioning.

If you are concerned that you or your child is experiencing hearing loss, see a doctor sooner rather than later for an initial screening. That will determine if further tests are needed and you will be able to catch any issues before they worsen.