The Benefits of an Appointment Buddy

Last update on Oct, 16, 2019

Michael Joseph, B.Sc (Hons)

Audiologist, Operations Manager

Do you think you might have hearing loss? If so, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, you don’t need to be alone when you take the next step and schedule a hearing test. There are many benefits to bringing a friend or family member along to your initial tests for hearing loss and subsequent follow-up visits. Let’s take a look at what happens in a hearing test and how a familiar face can help.

What happens in a hearing test

Before your first audiology appointment, you may be asking yourself, “What does an audiology test consist of?” or “How long does a hearing test take?” Tests for hearing loss can be conducted by an audiologist, otolaryngologist or licensed hearing care specialist (such as those at Miracle-Ear). A first-time audiology appointment for a hearing test usually takes 60 to 90 minutes, which gives the provider ample time to guide you through each step of the appointment:

Step 1: Hearing health history

Every first visit starts with a conversation. It’s a chance for the provider to get to know who you are as a person. He or she will review your general health history, then discuss what sort of changes you’ve noticed in your hearing and how they’re affecting different aspects of your life.

Step 2: Ear canal inspection

Next, the provider uses a special instrument called an otoscope to examine the inside of the ear. Before the audiology test takes place, he or she will look for earwax buildup, eardrum damage or other common conditions that may be interfering with your ability to hear clearly.

Step 3: Hearing threshold search

Next, you’ll step inside a sound booth for your hearing test. The provider will have you put on headphones or special earplugs that are connected to a machine called an audiometer. The hearing care provider will guide you through a series of sounds at different volumes and pitches. This test is used to determine your hearing threshold—in other words, the softest sounds you can hear at various frequencies.

Step 4: Speech discrimination test

During this part of the evaluation, the provider tests your ability to hear and understand speech in both quiet and noisy environments. Live or recorded speech may be used. The provider will ask you to repeat back words or phrases at different volumes or frequencies.

Hearing test results

After your evaluation, the provider will show you the results of your test on an audiogram—a graph that visually represents the softest sounds you can hear at different volumes and frequencies. Each person’s hearing loss is unique; your provider will explain the degree and type of impairment you have (if any), and which sounds are most difficult for you to hear, based on the tests for hearing loss.

If your hearing test indicates you have a type of hearing loss that could be helped by wearing a hearing aid, the provider may have you try on a few different models towards the end of the audiology appointment. This allows you to experience firsthand how hearing aids could help.

Five reasons to bring someone to your hearing test

1. A calming presence

It’s normal to be anxious about your first audiology appointment and how the hearing test results might impact your life. Even though the specialist will guide you through what happens in a hearing test, bringing a buddy along can help calm those nerves. That person could be a friend, spouse or close relative. The more relaxed you are, the better you can communicate your thoughts, questions and concerns.

2. A second pair of listening ears (literally)

Test results, hearing aid models, custom-programming options—there’s a lot of information to absorb throughout the visit. Your companion will probably be less nervous than you; he or she can really focus on the provider as the audiology test results are explained and write down key information for you to reference later on, like what sort of hearing aid features may benefit you.

3. Outside perspective

Hearing loss doesn’t just impact the affected person; its effects ripple over to loved ones, too. Your friend or family member can offer the provider an outside perspective and perhaps relay subtle symptoms or behaviors that you weren’t aware of (ex. turning the TV volume up).

Remember, knowledge is power—the more information you and your companion can provide, the better the hearing specialist can personalize care in regard to testing, diagnosis, results and recommendations.  

4. Advocate and ally

Maybe it’s the chill from the A/C or those long white lab coats—medical offices can sometimes make us nervous, and it can become hard to accurately express our thoughts. Your companion knows you well and can pick up on cues regarding communication hurdles (ex. you furrow your brow when confused or anxious). Whether it’s asking the provider to expand on a topic or reminding you of key questions you wanted to get answered, your loved one can help facilitate communication throughout the visit.

5. A familiar (and relevant) voice

On a more practical level, the provider likes to have a familiar voice present; it gives them a chance to see how well you can hear and recognize speech from someone important in your life. It also allows them to observe speech comprehension across different voices. For example, perhaps the provider has a low, deep voice and your wife or daughter has a softer, high-pitched voice. Comparing your ability to understand the two voices can aid the hearing test and diagnosis process. Hearing loss is very personal; no two losses are the same!

Beyond the hearing test: Fittings and follow-ups

The perks of bringing a buddy aren’t limited to that first visit—his or her presence can be extremely valuable during the hearing aid selection, fitting and programming process, as well as routine follow-up visits.

Options abound when it comes to hearing aids today. Since your companion knows you so well, he or she can help pinpoint which features or technology would be most beneficial to you. Your partner’s voice can even be used with speech-mapping software to ensure your hearing aid is programmed to pick up important voices in your life.

There’s a lot of information to consume when it comes to care, maintenance and self-adjusting, too. Your partner can be there to take notes and ask questions that are relevant to your lifestyle and needs.

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