For the next few #TeachingTuesdays, I hope to include a mini-series on some of the diagnostic imaging/tools that we use in the clinic.
I will start the series by introducing an ENT’s BFF: Audiologists! In our ear clinic, we work very closely with our audiologists. An audiologist is a healthcare professional who provides patient-centered care in the prevention, identification, diagnosis, and evidence-based treatment of hearing, balance, and other auditory disorders for people of all ages.
I am pleased to have Lyndsay (Doctor of Audiology Student) guest blog this week and share with us some of the diagnostic tests that audiologists commonly perform ! You can catch her on Instagram @aud2b
Hello! My name is Lyndsay and I am a Doctor of Audiology student. I live in south Florida and am currently finishing up my first year of graduate school! I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Central Florida. In my free time I like to go to the beach and play with my dog! Please let me know if you have any questions about audiology or life in general!
Here is some very brief information about the types of tests that audiologists perform on a daily basis.
Audiograms are opposite of what you would think they are! They have the larger values at the bottom of the graph and the smaller values at the top. These values are in decibels (dB). Audiograms are read left to right starting at 500 Hz and go up to 8000 Hz. (Further higher frequency testing can be done if there is a suspected high frequency loss). The blue X’s are the left ear and the red O’s are the right ear. These symbols indicate how the ear hears by air conduction. The < and > indicate bone conduction thresholds. If the X/O’s and the </>’s are less than15 dB of each other, this indicates a sensorineural hearing loss. If the bone conduction symbols are are within normal range, but the air conduction symbols are not, this is indicative of a conductive hearing loss.
Tympanograms measure the movement of the tympanic membrane. Tymps are very helpful to audiologists! They can help us to determine how the middle ear is functioning. A normal tympanogram means that the TM is moving the correct amount and the ear canal has a volume that is within normal limits. If there is a perforation of the TM, the tympanogram will indicate a flat line and there will be a large ear canal volume.
Middle Ear Muscle Reflex:
Formerly known as acoustic reflexes, this test measures the stapedius muscle and how it contracts in response to loud sounds. This is a natural reflex that we don’t even realize we have! (Yay our body protecting itself!) This test is used to help diagnose what type of hearing loss a person may have. MEMR can also help to determine if a retrocochlear lesion is suspected and if further testing is necessary.
Ototacoustic emissions (OAE):
Ototacoustic emissions are used to measure how well the outer hair cells are functioning. This is a quick test that takes approximately 1 minute or less. This can help us to determine if there is hair cell damage or if there is a pathology in the middle ear that is preventing sound from entering the cochlea.
Videonystagmography is used in order to determine if there is a vestibular pathology. This test involves specialized goggles that track the eye movements. The patient is put in different positions and conditions where the goggles are used to track nystagmus. A part of this test includes putting warm and cold water in the patient’s ears to see how the vestibular system responds.
Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR):
An auditory brainstem response is a way to determine how sound is getting up to the brainstem. In an ABR, electrodes are placed on the head to evaluate the potential differences when a sound is presented into the ear. This is helpful in tumor identification and is often used to test babies.