At the University of Chicago Medicine, our experts are committed to diagnosing ear conditions as early as possible to maximize the effectiveness of our treatments. Our care team partners with our researchers and uses a variety of techniques and technologies to ensure an accurate diagnosis. This allows us to create a treatment plan that is individualized for each one of our patients.

Comprehensive Evaluation

If someone has hearing loss, our first step is to do a physical examination to evaluate your ears, both externally and internally, to see if there is any structural change or damage that would cause hearing loss.

During your initial evaluation, we will discuss your medical history, including family history, to better understand any potential causes of your hearing loss. Also, please be ready to explain the changes you noticed in your hearing, what those changes were and if there were any attributing factors in your life. We also want to know if you are experiencing symptoms of fullness in your ears, pain, drainage, ringing and more.

Audiological Exam

UChicago Medicine audiologists will use a series of tests to pinpoint if hearing loss is present and, if so, characterize what type(s) it is. During the exam, we will be testing your outer, middle and inner ear functions, including testing sound and word detection. All of our hearing tests are noninvasive and painless, and a comprehensive exam typically takes about 30 minutes to complete.

  • Pure Tone Audiogram is the foundation of the assessment, and it will determine your ability to hear different tones presented at various volumes across the normal range of human hearing. The test also studies your ability to recognize spoken words.
  • Tympanogram measures the function of your eardrum and how well it vibrates. This test can identify problems with middle ear pressure or an eardrum perforation.
  • Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) is a special test that assesses how sounds are being transferred along the hearing nerve and brain. It is similar to an electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures brain waves.
  • Otoacoustic emissions test the function of the hair cells within the inner ear (cochlea).
  • Tuning fork tests are the most basic audiological tests used to measure hearing loss.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scans

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to identify a growth or tumor in or around the inner ear that could be causing hearing loss. During the MRI, a detailed image of the ear, skull and brain helps our team study the structure of the ear to find a potential cause of any hearing loss. An MRI is often done in cases where there is a significant asymmetry in the hearing levels between each ear that cannot be explained. 

Computed Tomography (CT) Technology

Our computed tomography technology (CT) scanner provides clear, cross-sectional images of the ear to provide an in-depth look of the middle ear, mastoid bone, hearing bones (ossicles) and the structure of the cochlea. The CT scan provides very good information regarding the bony anatomy of the whole ear.

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