Diagnosis of Hearing Loss

Hearing impairment diagnosis involves taking a complete medical and family history to assess risk factors (e.g., hereditary conditions, infections), and performing a physical examination and hearing screening tests. In some cases, imaging tests (e.g., x-rays, CT scan, MRI scan) are performed to rule out certain disorders (e.g., tumor, nerve damage).

Physical examination includes checking the outer ears, ear canals, and eardrums using an instrument called an otoscope. An otoscope is a hand-held device that consists of a tiny light and a cone-shaped attachment for examining the ear canals. It can be used to detect abnormalities, such as excessive drainage, ear infections, impacted ear wax, or a ruptured (perforated) eardrum.

Hearing Screening

Hearing testing (also called audiometry) is an important part of health care, from birth through adulthood. Suspected hearing loss in children should be confirmed with additional testing as soon as possible—within 1 month and no later than 3 months after the initial hearing test.

In most cases, medical specialists (audiologists or speech-language pathologists) conduct or supervise the administration of hearing tests. Basic hearing test results include "pass," which indicates hearing that is within the normal range, and "fail," which indicates hearing impairment that requires additional testing and evaluation.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 27 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 18 Sep 2015