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An audiometer is a special instrument that is used to measure the acuity of hearing. The invention of this device is credited to Dr. Harvey Fletcher of Brigham Young University. Audiologists and Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists (ENTs) use audiometers to administer hearing tests. An audiometer used in professional clinical settings has a set standard for calibration and can be used to identify and monitor hearing loss and hearing disorders.
A doctor or specialist uses an audiometer to conduct a series of tests and then compiles the individual results to make an assessment of an individual’s hearing. An audiometer is specially calibrated to deliver optimum test results. The test results are measured and recorded on a chart called an audiogram.
An audiometer presents tones at different frequencies, or pitches, and at different intensities, or levels of loudness. The same frequency is presented at different intensities until the patient no longer responds to the sound. The test continues with different frequencies presented in the same way until a consistent assessment of hearing can be made. Usually, a pair of headphones is provided to the patient through which the sounds travel and the patient is instructed to respond when they hear sound.
An audiometer is most often a separate piece of hardware, or a machine, all by itself. However digital audiometers that work as software with a computer are also available. Many times, hearing and speech therapists working in education will use audiometer software to help monitor the progress of their students. Though in various settings, such as education, audiometer software is a useful tool, most clinical settings prefer to use the audiometer machines because they are specially calibrated and deliver the most accurate measurements.
Most school children in the United States are tested with an audiometer in the early years of school between kindergarten and first grade. If a problem is suspected, they are typically referred to their family physician or an audiologist or ENT for further evaluation.
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