Hearing loss is challenging, if not impossible, to self-diagnose. To illustrate, you can’t really assess your level of hearing by simply putting your ear near a speaker. Which means that if you want to know what’s happening with your hearing, you have to take a test.
Now, before you start sweating or fidgeting anxiously, it’s significant to point out that the majority of hearing tests are quite easy and involve nothing more challenging than wearing a pair of fancy headphones.
Okay, tests aren’t everyone’s favorite thing to do. Whether you’re a high school student or middle-aged medical patient, tests are just generally no fun. Taking a little time to become familiar with these tests can help you feel more prepared and, as a result, more comfortable. A hearing test is probably the easiest test you’ll ever take!
How is a hearing test done?
Talking about making an appointment to have a hearing assessment is something that is not that uncommon. And we’ve likely used the phrase “hearing test” once or twice. Maybe, you’ve heard that there are two kinds of hearing tests and you’re wondering what they are all about.
Well, that’s a bit misleading. Because as it happens, there are a number of different hearing tests you may undergo. Each one is made to assess something different or give you a specific result. Here are a few of the hearing tests you’re likely to encounter:
- Pure-tone audiometry: Most individuals are most likely familiar with this hearing test. You listen for a sound on a set of headphones. You simply raise your right hand if you hear a tone in your right ear, and if you hear a tone in your left ear you put up your left hand. With this, we can figure out which wavelengths and volumes of sound you can hear. And if you have more profound hearing loss in one ear, this test will also determine that.
- Speech audiometry: In some cases, hearing speech is a problem for you despite the fact that you can hear tones just fine. Speech is generally a more complex audio spectrum so it can be harder to hear with clarity. This test also consists of a pair of headphones in a quiet room. Instead of making you focus on tones, this test will consist of audible speech at various volumes to identify the lowest level you’re able to hear a word and still comprehend it.
- Speech and Noise-in-Words Tests: Needless to say, conversations in the real world occur in settings where other sounds are present. A speech and noise-in-words test will go through the same procedure as speech audiometry, but the test occurs in a noisy room rather than a quiet one. This mimics real-world situations to help determine how your hearing is working in those settings.
- Bone conduction testing: This diagnostic is designed to measure the function of your inner ear. A small sensor is placed near your cochlea and another is put on your forehead. A small device then receives sounds. How efficiently sound vibrations travel through the ear is tracked by this test. This test can often identify whether there is a blockage in your ear (ex: if you can’t hear, but your inner ear is working perfectly there may be some kind of obstruction hindering the sounds).
- Tympanometry: The overall health of your eardrum sometimes requires testing. This is done using a test called tympanometry. Air will be gently blown into your ear in order to measure how much movement your eardrum has. If you have fluid behind your eardrum, or a hole in your eardrum, this is the test that will detect that.
- Acoustic Reflex Measures: During this test, a tiny device supplies sound to your ear and measures the muscle response of your inner ear. The reflexive reaction of the muscle movement of your inner ear will help us identify how well it’s working.
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR): The ability of your inner ear and brain to react to sound is measured by an ABR test. This is accomplished by putting a couple of tactically placed electrodes on the outside of your skull. This test is completely painless so don’t worry. That’s why everyone from newborns to grandparents get this test.
- Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Testing: This kind of testing will help determine if your inner ear and cochlea are working effectively. This is achieved by measuring sound that echo’s back to your middle ear from your inner ear. This can identify whether your cochlea is working or, in some situations, if your ear is blocked.
What can we learn from hearing test results?
It’s likely, you usually won’t take every single one of these hearing tests. We will choose one or two tests that best suit your symptoms and then go from there.
When we test your hearing, what are we looking for? A hearing test can sometimes expose the cause of your hearing loss. In other circumstances, the test you take may just rule out other possible causes. Ultimately, we will get to the bottom of any hearing loss symptoms you are experiencing.
In general, your hearing test will reveal:
- Whether your hearing loss is in a specific frequency range.
- Whether you are suffering from hearing loss or experiencing the symptoms associated with hearing loss.
- Which treatment approach will be best for your hearing loss: We will be more effectively able to address your hearing loss once we’ve determined the cause.
- How profound your hearing loss is (or, if you’ve had numerous tests over the years, how your hearing loss may have progressed).
Is there a difference between a hearing screening and a hearing test? The difference between a quiz and a test is a good analogy. A screening is really superficial. A test is made to supply usable data.
The sooner you take this test, the better
So as soon as you detect symptoms, you need to schedule a hearing test. Don’t worry, this test won’t be super stressful, and you don’t need to study. Nor are hearing tests intrusive or generally painful. We will provide you with all of the information about what to do and not to do before your hearing test.
Which means hearing tests are pretty easy, all you need to do is schedule them.