What is masking and why is it done during an audiological evaluation?
Masking is a procedure audiologists use while testing to separate the two ears, acoustically. The process is very much like when you get an eye exam, and you don’t want to test both eyes at the same time. You separate them by covering one then testing the other to determine if it is normal or impaired. In audiology noise is used as the masker. Covering the ears just wouldn’t work. Instead, noise is introduced to one ear while the other ear is tested with a tone (or speech signal). To indicate that the hearing thresholds were obtained using masking, masked threshold symbols are used on the audiogram. Most speech pathologists never have to worry about performing masking, but they do have to be able to interpret audiograms and understand why the masked symbols were used.
Dr. Ronald Jones is a professor in the Department of Nursing and Allied Health, College of Science, Engineering and Technology at Norfolk State University, Norfolk, Virginia. Current research and teaching interests include aural rehabilitation management of deaf and hard of hearing children, auditory processing performance of young adults, voice science, and literacy acquisition, particularly, by racial and ethnic minority children.