What is the Difference between a Hearing Screening and a Hearing Evaluation?

A hearing screening is used to determine which individuals demonstrate a higher probability for having hearing loss so that they may be referred for further evaluation. Those who do not pass the hearing screening are referred to an audiologist for a comprehensive hearing evaluation.

Who Should be Screened for Hearing Loss?

Screenings can be performed for people of any age. Colorado is one of thirty-six states that mandates newborn hearing screening. Preschoolers and school-age children are screened periodically at public schools and at some doctors’ offices. Adults may receive hearing screenings at their doctors’ offices or at community health fairs. If a hearing screening is not an available option, a hearing evaluation can be conducted.

What is a Hearing Evaluation?

 A hearing evaluation is a series of tests that assess:

  • Whether a hearing loss is present
  • The location of the hearing loss in the hearing system
  • The degree and configuration of hearing loss

A hearing evaluation begins with questions regarding your medical and hearing history. The audiologist will then look in your ears to determine whether there is anything in the ear canal that may affect the test results or require referral to an ear, nose, and throat doctor. Then a variety of tests may be used to assess your hearing. The tests used will depend on your age and symptoms. Tests commonly used at our clinic include:

  • Pure-tone testing
  • Speech testing
  • Tests of the middle ear

During pure-tone testing we will find the softest sounds you can hear in each ear at pitches that range from low to high. The results are then plotted on an audiogram.

Speech testing will also be conducted during a hearing evaluation. A test called the speech reception threshold is used to confirm the reliability of the pure tone test results. The audiologist will determine the loudness level that words can be repeated half of the time. This should match with the pure tone results plotted on the audiogram. Then a test of word recognition ability will determine how many words can be repeated correctly at an audible, comfortable level.

Tests of middle ear function may also be performed during a hearing evaluation. Tympanometry may be used to measure the mobility of the eardrum. Acoustic reflex measures test the contraction of a muscle in the middle ear in response to a loud sound. The loudness level of the reflex or the absence of the reflex provides the audiologist with further information regarding the location of the problem in the auditory system.

This test battery will be reviewed with you and recommendations will be made based on the results. The hearing evaluation may result in the following recommendations:

  • Medical follow-up ear, nose, and throat physician
  • Annual hearing evaluations
  • Hearing aid evaluation
  • Use of hearing protection devices