Audiology / Hearing & Balance tests


What is audiology?

Audiology is the branch of science that studies hearing, balance, and related disorders. Audiology practitioners, who treat those with hearing loss and proactively prevent related damage are known as audiologists. An experienced audiologist can employ various audiology testing strategies to determine whether someone can hear within the normal range, and if not, which portions of hearing (high, middle, or low frequencies) are affected and to what degree. In addition to testing hearing, audiologists can also work with a wide range of clients in rehabilitation (cochlear implants and/or hearing aids), pediatric populations and assessment of the vestibular system. In Australia Audiologists must hold a Masters in Audiology.

What can audiology determine?

A standard hearing test or audiogram is a standard way of representing a person’s hearing loss. Audiograms are produced using a piece of test equipment called an audiometer – this allows different frequencies to be presented to the subject over calibrated headphones, at any specified level. Audiograms are set out with frequency in hertz (Hz) on the horizontal axis, and a linear dBHL (decibels hearing loss) scale on the vertical axis. Normal hearing is classified as being between -10dB(HL) and 15dB(HL), although 0dB from 250 Hz to 8 kHz is deemed to be ‘average’ normal hearing.

The administration of hearing tests (audiograms) in adults is different from children and babies. Adults are able to respond to auditory stimuli and give an accurate representation of what they can hear. For Children 2 years or less, Visual response observational audiometry (VROA) can be performed to give an idea of whether the hearing is adequate for normal language development. For older children, play audiometry may be employed which involves the use of games or toys to gain a true idea of hearing levels.

Tympanometry is another simple audiological test which may be used to test the condition of the middle ear and give information about the presence of middle ear fluid or effusions.

Balance tests can also be performed by an audiologist. Electronystagmography (ENG or VNG) and caloric tests can measure the level of function of each inner ear balance system and determine weaknesses or deficits. Balance tests are performed by recording eye movements in response to ear stimuli as the eyes and the vestibular (balance) system are closely connected.

Audiology at Sydney Voice and Swallowing

‘Sydney Voice and Swallowing’ is conveniently located near a number of audiology centres.

We are often able to organise audiology and review hearing tests (audiograms) on the same day, so patients do not need to return for review of results. This saves the patient valuable time and money. Balance tests can usually be organised within a week.

In conjunction with careful assessment by an ENT surgeon, audiology is a powerful tool to help in the assessment of hearing loss.