Diagnostic hearing evaluations Overview

Diagnostic hearing evaluation

A woman participates in a diagnostic evaluation of hearing.

When you visit the Mayo Clinic Division of Audiology, you might undergo evaluations to help your doctor determine what's causing your hearing loss, balance problems or dizziness. The results help determine the treatment options available to you.

Several diagnostic evaluations are available, including:

  • Comprehensive audiology evaluation. This procedure determines your hearing ability relative to age-appropriate hearing levels within normal limits to determine if you have hearing loss, where it occurs, and its type or classification. This information is critical in determining if medical or surgical intervention is possible or if hearing aids may help. Enhanced communication and hearing loss prevention strategies may also be discussed during this session.
  • Tympanometry. This test assesses the middle ear, which consists of the eardrum and three small bones that connect the eardrum to the inner ear. Middle-ear blockages or malfunctions often can be treated medically or surgically.
  • Stapedial reflexes and reflex decay. This test evaluates the auditory nerve's ability to transmit hearing signals to the brain. Blockages along this pathway indicate the need for further medical consultation.
  • Auditory evoked potential or brainstem response evaluation. This assessment measures electrical nerve impulses that carry sound from the inner ear to the brain. Electrodes may be placed in your ear canal and on your head. Then short clicking sounds are turned on. The audiologist can determine how sound is transmitted to the brain and if you have any blockages or interruptions to the nerve impulses.
  • Threshold equalizing noise (TEN) test. This test determines if you have any pitch regions in the inner ear that no longer respond to sound stimulation, thus creating "dead zones." Your audiologist may use information about any nonfunctional regions of the inner ear in determining how to adjust hearing aids and how much help the hearing aids can provide.
  • Sentence-in-noise (SIN) test. This test evaluates your ability to understand conversational speech in noisy environments and compares your performance to that of listeners without difficulty hearing speech in noise. Your audiologist uses these test results to determine whether you might benefit from hearing aids in noisy situations and what type of hearing aid circuitry might be needed.
  • Otoacoustic emissions. This test evaluates the functioning of the outer hair cells in the inner ear. Otoacoustic emissions are acoustic signals generated by the normal inner ear, either in the absence of acoustic stimulation (spontaneous emissions) or in response to acoustic stimulation (acoustically evoked emissions). These emissions can be measured by placing a microphone in the opening of the ear canal and analyzing the signals obtained.
  • Vestibular diagnostic testing. Mayo Clinic is one of the few medical centers in the country to offer comprehensive testing in state-of-the-art vestibular and balance laboratories, along with expert consultations after the testing.

See Audiology and ENT staff

Dec. 16, 2021