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Reason Why Plastic Earplugs are Used during Hearing Tests

by Dr. Natalie Phillips, Audiology Expert
September 15, 2016

Question: Why are plastic earplugs sometimes used during hearing tests?

Answer: Hearing evaluations are usually performed with either circumaural, or supra-aural, headphones or insert earphones.  Most insert earphones are actually foam transducers, rather than plastic.  Although research evaluating the two different types of transducers does not provide statistically significant differences, there are some schools of thought that present advantages for the use of insert earphones.

In pediatric cases, insert earphones are somewhat easier to maintain on the child once placed, rather than the circumaural headphones that children may swiftly remove from their heads.  Other applications of insert earphones use include the threshold obtained due to placement of an insert earphone is more similar to that of a hearing aid placement in the ear canal.  This may, in fact, be a better estimate of the appropriate sound pressure level in the ear canal and provide less of a correction factor when fitting hearing aids that may need to be taken into account.  Due to the possibility of more attenuation of outside noise, using insert earphones may also provide more accurate threshold measures as well as may reduce the air conduction cross-over effect during testing.

Dr. Natalie Phillips is the Senior Audiologist with Advanced Otolaryngology and Audiology in Fort Collins, Colorado and Director of Audiology with EarQ. Dr. Phillips has served on the Board of Directors for the Colorado Academy of Audiology and on various convention committees for the American Academy of Audiology as well as the Support Personnel Task Force.

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