With such a wide range of hearing and balance disorders, many of which have similar symptoms, it’s important for an audiologist to make an accurate diagnosis in order to come up with a successful treatment plan. Diagnostic testing plays an important role in determining the condition responsible for a patient’s suffering.
Types of Diagnostic Balance Tests
There are a number of diagnostic tests available, ranging from X-rays and CT scans to more in-depth tests. Here are some of the most common:
- Acoustic Immittance Measures. These tests evaluate the eardrum and middle ear and are used to determine which part of the ear is affected by hearing loss.
- Audiometry. This hearing exam measures your ability to hear different sounds, pitches and frequencies. It can determine the nature and extent of your hearing loss and whether you will benefit from hearing aids or surgery.
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR). This neurologic test provides information about the electrical activity in the auditory pathway between the inner ear and the brain, and measures a person’s hearing sensitivity.
- Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE). This test measures the response of hair cells in the inner ear when stimulated, and can indicate the presence of a conductive or cochlear hearing loss.
These diagnostic tests are quick, painless, and can help us diagnose and evaluate a variety of hearing and balance disorders.
Diagnostic Tests for the Vestibular System
The vestibular system is complex and responsible for many of the body’s functions. In order to narrow down the exact cause of dizziness, it is necessary to administer a variety of tests. These measure eye movements, head movements, hearing and more.
Studies indicate vestibular testing is extremely thorough and accurate in identifying inner ear disorders. Vestibular testing is also helpful in determining whether additional diagnostic testing, such as an MRI, is needed. A battery of tests is administered in most cases. The most common ones include:
- Electronystagmography (ENG) and Videonystagmography (VNG). This series of tests measures eye movements via electrodes placed around the eyes or via infrared video. ENG and VNG tests usually consist of four parts: evaluation of rapid eye movements, tracking tests to measure eye movements as they follow a visual target, positional test for measuring dizziness in response to different head positions and a caloric test that measures responses to warm and cold water circulating through a tube in the ear canal. Most people reporting dizziness or vertigo will be given ENG or VNG tests initially.
- Rotary Chair Tests. The rotary chair test measures eye movements in response to corresponding head movements; it is used to determine whether symptoms are related to an inner ear disorder or a brain disorder. Like the ENG and VNG tests, either electrodes or a goggle-mounted video camera is used to record eye movements. You are seated in a computerized chair that moves. This test provides more detailed information about the function of the balance system than an ENG or VNG test.
These tests may be combined with additional hearing or diagnostic tests depending on the results.Call our Hampton office at (757) 825-2500 or our Williamsburg office at (757) 253-8722 for more information or to schedule an appointment.