Each semester, the Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic offers free hearing evaluations to the campus and local community through its Audiology lab. Located on the first floor of the Professional Human Services Building is the unique lab that houses two soundproof rooms, specially equipped to test for hearing loss. CHHS Communication Student Assistant Sierra Frank recently had her hearing evaluated and shares her experience on our blog.
Getting my hearing tested in-depth for the first time brought about feelings of anxiousness and curiosity. I did not know what to expect, though I assumed I would not have any issues with my hearing, considering I do not have any noticeable hearing issues in my daily life. However, you can never be too sure, so there I sat for the results, and in the least, the experience.
I took my seat in the first of the two rooms where I would experience the initial testing of my middle ear. Lilliana Toste, a first-year graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology, conducted the hearing evaluation, which tested all three areas of the ear, the middle ear, the inner ear and the outer ear.
Toste, of Lemoore, put me at ease by explaining the hearing evaluation process by referencing the three major parts of the ears.
“There are three main section of the ear, physically,” Toste said. “We first test the middle ears. We test the bone and reflexes that goes on there. We check the outer ear for any malformations. Then we do a huge battery test to check the inner ears functions, which test how well your inner ear could hear sound.”
Hearing evaluations at the on-campus clinic are conducted by graduate students in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology as part of the clinical study requirement hours, under the supervision of a licensed audiologist. The graduate students are usually observed by an undergraduate in the field of Speech-Language Pathology, as well.
Jennifer Bettencourt of Tulare, also a first-year graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology, explained the process of getting a hearing assessment done.
“We begin with getting to know our client, then we do the emittance testing, which gives us a sense of what we are going to be looking at,” Bettencourt said. “It tells us if they have a lot of buildup that could be blocking their hearing. We take them in, we do hearing conduction and bone conduction, then we will run through all the speech testing. Afterwards, we go through everything with them and give them their results.”
I was anxious when things first began, mainly because I did not know for sure what the results would be. However, Lilliana’s warm personality made the process a lot easier. I jokingly thought to myself, ‘worst case scenario, I have hearing loss and I will be deaf in a few years.’ That was an extreme exaggeration and my results were completely normal as expected.
I entered the second room to take an in-depth hearing analysis. This room was double doored and entirely sound proof. At times, I remember the room being so quiet all I could hear was my thoughts running around in my head. During the second part of the process, I had to remind myself to relax and to eliminate mental clutter, which could have distracted me from hearing the quiet flickers of sounds.
During the hearing evaluation, some sounds were so soft that I reconsidered multiple times if I had actually heard something. That was part of the battle for me. I thought at times, ‘am I really hearing a beep or is my brain filling in details, because I am anticipating one.’ For that specific type of test, I was instructed beforehand to press a button when I did hear a sound.
The next form of testing consisted of spoken language in a quiet background and spoken language in a noisy background. This was a test that required me to verbally repeat back sentences I heard in different levels of background noise.
The objective was to assess how well I can audibly process sentences with different volumes of background noise. An assessment that I found interesting was the one that required me to write down words that I heard. Some words audibly loud, while others were faint and quiet.
Ultimately, getting my hearing tested was a positive experience that I found to be beneficial, as it has heightened my awareness in caring for my hearing.
Sabrina Nii, director of the Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic, said each semester 200 clients are served in the audiology clinic. She stressed the importance of taking advantage of this service and having it available to the community.
“First off, it is a free service,” Nii said. “I am sure many people in our community are in need of services, but don’t have access. It’s providing access to people who may not have it otherwise. Also, the aging population is growing. It is an easy way to gain access as they start suffering changes in their hearing.”
Hearing impairments are not always apparent. Loud music at concerts, in cars and through earbuds could be a contributing factor, especially for younger crowds.
“These hearing evaluations are beneficial to younger people too because noise induced hearing loss is a problem” Nii said. “We listen to our music too loud. Our earbuds are very high-quality and it is putting a lot of energy into the ear with very loud music being played directly into the ear canal. That could create an issue. It’s even beneficial to young people to get their hearing assessed on a regular basis. When you are young you just don’t realize the damage that could be done.”
Nii said that some classes require undergraduates to undergo a hearing assessment, so they can gain experience and have a deeper understanding of the audiological concepts they are being taught. The remaining clients come from the community.
Much like Toste, Bettencourt mentioned how beneficial this experience is to her as she pursues her graduate studies.
“Although I am not going to be an audiologist, it is helpful because I am learning how to work with clients, talk with them and give them their results,” Bettencourt said. “Any clinical experience helps.”
Hunter Miguel, of Tulare, also participated in the hearing evaluation and found the results a welcome relief.
“I was curious, because I had some exposure with concerts and loud music and I was wondering if I had a loss of hearing,” Miguel said. “The experience was interesting. It was definitely new. I liked being in an environment where you are being tested and having it confirmed that your hearing is normal.”
Much like Hunter, I experienced the same relief. In many cases in life, often times people find out there is a problem after the damage has been done. In conclusion, if I was to offer any advice to anyone who may even have the slightest interests in getting their hearing tested, I’d say to definitely go for it. At the end of the day, there is no way to be 100 percent sure that there are not any hearing impairments, unless testing is done. In the least it is a free service and it helps our fellow graduates learn more about their future careers through practical application.
To schedule a free hearing evaluation, contact 559278.2422 or visit the Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic website.