Have you heard?

People aren’t the only ones with interesting hearing mechanisms and facts. Check out these random tidbits about animal hearing from the Better Hearing Institute, Teachers Domain, and the University of Washington:

• Snakes do not have ears, but their tongues are sensitive to sound vibrations.
• Owls distinguish sound directions partly by measuring the difference in time it takes the sound to reach each ear. This difference is typically less than 200 millionths of a second!
• Cicadas have hearing organs in their stomachs
• Crickets have hearing organs in their knees; sound waves cause a thin membrane on the cricket’s legs to vibrate
• It is thought that owls can create an image of the world around them based only on sound, much like humans do with their eyes
• Although fish do not have ears, they can hear pressure changes through ridges on their bodies
• Dolphins can hear frequencies up to at least 100,000 Hz.  Compare this to a dog’s ability to hear up to 40,000 Hz and a person’s 20,000 Hz
• During World War I, the military kept parrots on France’s Eiffel Tower because their extra-sensitive hearing allowed them to warn of incoming enemy aircraft before any person could hear it
• All mammals have external ears, but many can move them to help pinpoint the direction of sounds. Some animals, like elephants, can even use their ears to stay cool by waving them like fans.

And you thought you could twitch your ears!

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What is behavioral observation audiometry?

The critical impact of hearing loss on a child’s ability to communicate means it is essential to identify any existing problems at the earliest age possible. One method of identifying hearing loss in infants up to 7 months of age is known as behavioral observation audiometry. Conducted by a specially trained audiologist, these observations involve scrutinizing a child’s behavior when presented with a variety of sounds. Noises made by chimes, bells, scrunched cellophane, and other objects are used during the test, and the child is then monitored for any change in behavior. The audiologist will look for behavioral responses like awakening from sleep, startling, widening of the eyes, bodily movement and turning of the head. Even changes in breathing patterns or the rate a child sucks on a pacifier can be signs of sound perception.

Although these tests often present immediate and compelling results, it is important to conduct them in concurrence with other auditory tests. The sooner a child’s hearing loss is identified, the less chance he or she has of experiencing a delay in learning or communicating. For this reason, it is important to schedule an appointment with an audiologist who can help you rule out or more closely investigate any issues with your child’s hearing. By using your True Dental Discounts, hearing plan, you can get significant savings on high-quality care.

What is an audiogram?

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, an audiogram is “a graph that shows the softest sounds a person can hear at different pitches or frequencies.” An audiogram can be constructed to illustrate a child’s range of hearing and help determine his or her level of hearing loss, if present. Levels range from “normal” to “profound” and include several intermediary degrees, such as “severe” and “moderate.” A child with severe hearing loss, for example, can likely only hear extremely loud sounds like a police siren. Audiograms typically include keys similar to those on a map to help identify the meaning of symbols. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders suggests that “O”s represent right-ear responses while “X”s represent left-ear responses. Marks closer to the top of the graph indicate softer sounds heard.

One important use of an audiogram is to determine a person’s ability to hear conversation. Speech sounds vary in pitch and loudness, and an audiogram shows a person’s ability in relation to the frequency of average speech. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders cites as an example the sounds of “s” and “o.” The “s” sound is higher in pitch and quieter, while the “o” sound is lower and louder. To learn more about the benefits of audiograms, schedule an appointment with an audiologist on your True Dental Discounts, hearing plan. Your membership allows you to receive special discounts; call today to find out how much you could save.

What to expect during an audiologic evaluation

If you suspect you’re having problems with your hearing, your doctor may recommend you be evaluated by an audiologist on your True Care hearing care plan. An audiologist is a doctor who treats and prevents hearing loss. During your evaluation, the audiologist will talk with you about your medical history, particularly as it relates to your hearing. This information will help him or her learn more about what could be causing issues with your hearing.

Before conducting any tests, the doctor will use a light called an otoscope to look inside your ear. This helps determine if anything is blocking the ear canal that would affect the test results or require further treatment. After that, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the audiologist will typically conduct a series of hearing tests to assess:

  • If you indeed having hearing loss
  • Possible causes of your hearing loss
  • If your hearing loss is in one or both ears
  • The degree/severity of your hearing loss

Using the results of these tests, your audiologist will determine the best treatment options for you. Common treatment options include hearing aids, audiologic rehabilitation and cochlear implants. With the correct treatment plan, you can prevent further hearing loss and significantly improve your quality of life.

Middle ear hearing tests helpful for preschoolers

One of the many causes of hearing loss is middle ear disease. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, this disease is often associated with hearing loss in preschool-age children. As a result, several tests have been developed to detect the presence of middle ear disease in both children and adults. One of these tests, known as tympanometry, uses air pressure to detect fluid, eardrum perforation, or excessive wax in the ear canal.

During the test, an audiologist applies air pressure to the ear drum, causing it to move. Graphs called tympanograms are then created to measure the mobility of the ear drum. These graphs can reveal if an eardrum is too stiff, too mobile, or is perforated. This type of test is often used when a child has an infection in the middle ear.

A second type of middle ear test helps audiologists find the location of the hearing problem. Everyone has a muscle in the middle ear that automatically contracts when a loud sound is heard. The “acoustic reflex measures” test determines the volume at which this reflex occurs. By measuring the level of loudness required to trigger the reflex, audiologists can learn more about the person’s source of hearing loss.

Finally, audiologists may use a “static acoustic impedance” test to measure the physical volume of air in a child’s ear canal. According to ASLHA, this test helps identify perforations in the ear drum. It also measures the openness of the ear ventilation tube.

The results of all of these tests will help parents learn more about their child’s hearing abilities. The audiologist may provide referrals for medical and educational follow-ups, hearing aid assessments, speech assessments, and other helpful resources. For more information, or to find out if your child should be tested, schedule an appointment with an audiologist on your True Care Advantage plan.