What Does an Audiologist Do?
Audiologists conduct a variety of tests to find out if a child has a hearing problem. The audiologist can discover the exact nature of the hearing problem and interpret test results to suggest treatment. They can also recommend, fit and dispense hearing devices.
Audiologists provide rehabilitative services, education and counseling for patients and their families. Infants with hearing loss can be fitted with hearing aids as early as 4 weeks of age. Early intervention improves the likelihood of more normal speech and language development.
An audiologist can perform the following tests:
- Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) are sounds produced by the cochlea, the hearing part of the inner ear. The OAE test is used as an early screening test. A small probe is placed in the outer ear canal with the patient sitting still and quiet. A computer analyzes whether sounds are produced. This test does not require the child to take part, but does require the patient to be still and sit quietly.
- Middle ear testing searches for the presence of fluid or other middle ear problems. The results are presented in a diagram called a tympanogram.
- Auditory brainstem response (ABR) evaluation consists of sounds that are presented to a child’s ears through earphones. Small electrodes are placed on the child’s head while the audiologist analyzes responses. The infant or child must be completely still and is often sedated for this test. Testing usually takes less than one hour.
- Behavioral hearing tests are used with children who are able to respond to sounds either by turning their head or by playing a game. For young children, there are usually two evaluators: an audiologist outside the sound booth conducts the test and another audiologist inside directs games with the child. Testing takes less than one hour. There are two types of behavioral tests:
- Threshold testing measures the quietest tones or speech that a child can hear.
- Speech testing measures the child’s ability to understand speech at comfortable loudness levels.