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Audiology

The audiology clinics in both Hillcrest and La Jolla provide diagnostic hearing evaluations to inpatients and outpatients. Each patient, caregiver and/or family member receives individual instruction and counseling related to hearing loss and hearing loss treatment.

The latest in digital programmable hearing aids are available for hearing impaired patients to purchase.

More about hearing loss at UC San Diego Health.

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Hearing Testing

There are several ways in which hearing is evaluated. Tests include:

Audiometry

This is a standard “hearing test.” You will wear headphones and be asked to raise your hand or press a button when you hear soft beeps. This determines whether hearing loss is present, and if so, how much and what type.

Immittance tests

Immittance tests evaluate the function of the structures in the middle ear and eardrum.

Two types of immittance tests:

  1. Tympanometry - A measurement of outer and middle ear function. You will wear a soft rubber earplug, and specialized equipment will automatically measure the movement of your eardrum in response to pressure changes. This determines whether your outer and middle ear systems are functioning normally.
  2. Acoustic Reflex Assessments - Acoustic reflex testing is a measurement of how sound travels through your auditory pathway. You will wear a soft rubber earplug and you will hear some loud beeps. Our specialized equipment will automatically measure your auditory pathway’s response to these beeps.

Speech perception testing

Assesses how well you hear and understand speech. You will wear headphones and be asked to repeat words at soft and normal conversational levels.

Otoacoustic emissions (OAE)

Assesses your inner ear function. You will wear a soft earphone and hear some electronic noises. Our computer will automatically measure your ear’s response to these noises.

Auditory brainstem response (ABR)

Assesses how sound travels through your auditory system. A few small areas on your head will be cleaned with rubbing alcohol, and electrodes that look like stickers will be placed on your skin. These electrodes are to measure your auditory system’s response to sound. You will hear some clicking noises during the test. You can relax or even sleep during testing.

Hearing Aids and Assistive Devices

Assistive hearing devices include any tool that increases communication for a person with hearing loss. The following devices are available at UC San Diego.

Programmable digital hearing aids

Today’s hearing aids are more discreet and technologically advanced than ever before. Each hearing aid is programmed to match prescribed targets for your specific hearing needs. Hearing aid purchase includes a 45-day trial period, enabling you to try the hearing aids risk-free to experience how they may benefit you.

Hearing aid maintenance (batteries, repair and cleaning services)

We provide comprehensive troubleshooting of any issues you may be experiencing with your hearing aids.

Assistive listening devices (ALDs)

Sophisticated accessories, such as remote controls, remote microphones,TV adapters, and Bluetooth cellphone interfaces, are also available for purchase.

CROS/BiCROS hearing aids

For deafness in one ear, or asymmetric hearing loss - If you have deafness in one ear, and your other ear is normal or has a more serviceable hearing loss, CROS/BiCROS may help. This technology uses two parts: a transmitter and a receiver. Both parts look like small hearing aids. The transmitter is worn on the poorer ear; the receiver is on the better ear. The transmitter picks up sound and sends it to the receiver, so that sound on the poorer side is sent to the better ear.

CROS/BiCROS hearing aid purchase includes a 45-day trial period, enabling you to try this technology.

Osseointegrated bone conduction devices (Baha)

For deafness in one ear, or from hearing loss caused by issues in the outer or middle ear.

Baha is an implanted hearing device that sends sound signals to the inner ear through vibration. If you have deafness in one ear, Baha will pick up sound from the poorer ear and send it to the normal-hearing ear. If you have hearing loss caused by problems in the outer or middle ear (conductive hearing loss), Baha will bypass these problems and stimulate the inner ear directly.

While Baha is a surgically-placed device, you can experience listening through the Baha as part of our evaluation to determine if this technology is right for you.

Custom earplugs

Protects your ears from noise or water. These are made to fit perfectly into your ears and come in a variety of colors.

Musician’s earplugs are custom-shaped for your ear and include filters that maintain the balance and quality of music, while protecting your ears from damage.

Swimming/surfing plugs are custom-shaped for your ears and protect your ears from water. These can prevent two common conditions: “swimmer’s ear” (otitis externa) and “surfer’s ear” (exostoses). Exostoses are bony growths in the ear canal caused by exposure to cold wind or water.

Tinnitus Treatment

Tinnitus can be caused by several different things: age, earwax buildup, medications, noise exposure, a variety of factors, or other medical disorders. If treating the cause of tinnitus doesn't alleviate symptoms, there are devices that can help.

Hearing aids and tinnitus maskers

These devices provide additional input to the auditory system and may help mask tinnitus. Some hearing aids have specialized programs that provide stimulation designed to reduce tinnitus.

Cochlear Implants

When the hair cells in the cochlea are damaged, sound is unable to reach the auditory nerve. Cochlear implants helps bypass these damaged hair cells and provide direct stimulation to the auditory nerve, thereby restoring hearing.

Candidacy assessment

Candidacy assessment consists of hearing testing with and without hearing aids, plus medical evaluations. The assessment also includes thorough discussion of how the technology works and what you can expect, and if this technology might benefit you.

Cochlear implants are typically recommended for those who are struggling with hearing aids. Cochlear implants send sound directly to the hearing nerve, bypassing any damage that may be present in the cochlea (inner ear organ).

Programming and troubleshooting

After the cochlear device (e.g., Advanced Bionics, Cochlear Americas or Medel) is implanted, the audiologist will adjust the device to provide the most appropriate level of stimulation through a process called mapping.

Auditory Brainstem Implant

An auditory brainstem implant (ABI) is a small device that is surgically inserted to restore sensations of sound. It is recommended for people who would not benefit from a cochlear implant or hearing aid because their auditory nerves are not functioning, they have bilateral cochlear ossification, or absent/severely malformed cochleae.

An ABI bypasses the cochlea and auditory nerves and restores some sensations of sound by directly stimulating central auditory pathways to the brain using electrical impulses.

An ABI may also be implanted during surgery to remove a tumor such as an acoustic neuroma (vestibular schwannoma) in cases of neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2). See a news release about this procedure.

For more information contact Kris Siwek, patient navigator, at 858-657-5376; ksiwek@ucsd.edu.

About the Device

The ABI device has two parts:

Internal component: The implanted component is a neural stimulator electrode that is placed directly onto the auditory portion of the brainstem and connected to a receiver placed just under the skin behind the ear. The implant will only work in conjunction with the external component.

External component: This includes a sound processor, microphone, and transmission coil and must be worn behind the ear for sound to be heard. This will not be activated until at least six weeks after the implantation surgery.

What to Expect with ABI

Results of an auditory brainstem implant vary significantly among patients. While the ABI doesn't restore normal hearing, it helps improve your awareness of sounds in the environment. In combination with lip reading, these cues can improve your communication with others.

The ABI Process

Before surgery, you will consult with our medical experts and audiologists, who will review your medical records and discuss treatment recommendations and the process with you. Some of this can occur by phone or video conference with typed transcription if you live outside the San Diego area.

During surgery, the surgical team places the ABI electrode completely over the auditory center of your brainstem. We test your electrical auditory responses during the operation, which can help predict how much of a response you might be able to expect from the device.

Several follow-up appointments will be held after surgery to check your progress and to activate and program the device.

Vestibular (Balance) Evaluation

The vestibular system is vital to daily function and activities as it helps maintain body and head posture. The following tests help diagnose a vestibular system disorder. 

Videonystagmography (VNG)

This is a comprehensive examination of your vestibular (inner ear balance) system. During the test, you will wear goggles that have tiny video cameras to record your eye movements. First, you will be sitting upright and watching some moving lights. Second, you will be moved from sitting to laying down in various positions. Finally, cool and warm air will be placed in your ears. During each section, the goggles will record your vestibular system’s response by tracking eye movements.

Vestibular evoked myogenic potential (VEMP)

This test examines a balance organ in the inner ear called the saccule. You will wear a foam earphone and hear some clicking noises. During the test, you will lie down and raise your head using your neck muscles. Recording electrodes will take a measurement of your system’s response.

Electrocochleography (EcoG)

This test is helpful in diagnosing Meniere's disease and other disorders of the inner ear. Your ear canal will be gently cleaned and a foam earphone will be inserted. Electrodes that look like stickers will be placed on your skin to record your auditory system’s response to sound. You will hear some clicking noises during the test. You can relax or even sleep during testing.


Appointments & Referrals

Audiology Locations

La Jolla

Hillcrest

Audiology Team