Understanding Audiology Terms & Lingo

Guest Blog Post – Dr. Dawn Violetto

Dr. Dawn and a student at Child's VoiceOne thing is certain in Audiology…WE LOVE OUR ACRONYMS! CPA, VRA, CI, HA, SF, SFA, SPIN!  What language are we speaking?  Martian?!!!!!   Audiology is a world filled with short cuts and abbreviations when writing, which only have meaning to those whole dwell in that world on a full time basis, i.e. they have a degree in it!  I think audiologists sometimes forget that (and I am as guilty as anyone) parents are not experienced with hearing loss and the whole new realm of people, providers, technology and vocabulary that comes bundled with it.   We would all do well as Audiologists to take step back and remember sometimes that if we see a look of confusion on a parents face it may be because we are talking in a language they don’t understand.

So let’s have a small language lesson starting with those abbreviations you may see in a report or on the audiogram!

HA means Hearing Aid, CI means Cochlear Implant.  When testing babies or toddlers, VRA means Visually Reinforced Audiometry.  This means that in order to obtain hearing test results, every time the child turns to the sound coming from the speakers correctly, they are reinforced with a light up toy.  When the child is older, Conditioned Play Audiometry (CPA) is used and implies that in order to obtain hearing test results we asks to child to perform a play activity every time they hear a sound.  Such as throwing a ball or dropping a rubber ducky in tub.  We try to choose something that is fun and engaging enough to get the results we need from the child.  SAT stands for Speech Awareness Threshold and represents the lowest level or volume we are able to get the child to respond to, whether by turning to their name or singing a nursery rhyme perhaps.  Speech Reception Threshold or SRT represents the lower level of sound/volume that the child will correctly repeat an easy word like “hotdog, baseball, airplane”.  For younger child they may point to the correct body part when asked.  It means the child hears the word, understands the word and can correctly identify it.  Sometimes you may see an abbreviation of SF or SFA in a report or on an audiogram and this refers to testing in the sound booth using the speakers instead of earphones, which is called Sound Field testing or SF.  SFA stands for Sound Field Aided testing which means the child is wearing a device or both devices while we are testing in the booth.  Often if we are testing the in SF the response for each ear will be noted on the audiogram as R for Right ear aided response or L for the Left ear response.  If they are using a Cochlear Implant (CI) sometimes you see aided responses noted as CR (Cochlear Right) and CL (Cochlear Left).  All of the aided terms represent the lowest level/volume the child will respond to at each frequency.  Though there are other symbols that Audiologist use when marking on the audiogram, these ones are seen often but not always explained.

The world of hearing loss is vast and hard to navigate.  However, trying to find your way when you can’t read or understand the language makes it almost impossible!  Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for clarification is someone says something or uses an abbreviation in a report you don’t understand.  Let’s face it we rarely set out on a journey with Google maps set to the Martian language!