Hearing loss is challenging, if not impossible, to self-diagnose. For example, you can’t actually put your ear next to a speaker and subjectively evaluate what you hear. So getting a hearing test will be vital in understanding what’s happening with your hearing.
But there’s no need to worry or stress out because a hearing test is about as easy as putting on a high-tech pair of headphones.
But we get it, people don’t like tests. Tests are generally no fun for anyone of any age. Taking some time to get to know these tests can help you feel more prepared and, as a result, more comfortable. There’s almost no test easier to take than a hearing test!
How is a hearing test performed?
We frequently talk about making an appointment with a hearing specialist to get your hearing checked. And the phrase “hearing test” is something we’ve probably talked about on occasion. Maybe, you’ve heard that there are two types of hearing tests and you’re wondering what they are all about.
Well, that’s a bit misleading. Because you may undergo a number of different kinds of hearing tests, as it turns out. Each of them is made to assess something different or give you a specific result. The hearing tests you’re most likely to encounter include the following:
- Pure-tone audiometry: This is the hearing test you’re probably most familiar with. You wear some headphones and you listen for a tone. You just put up your right hand if you hear a tone in your right ear, and if you hear a tone in your left ear you raise your left hand. With this, we can figure out which wavelengths and volumes of sound you’re able to hear. It will also measure whether you have more significant hearing loss in one ear than the other.
- Speech audiometry: Sometimes, you’re able to hear tones really well, but hearing speech is still somewhat of a challenge. Speech is typically a more complex audio spectrum so it can be more difficult to hear clearly. When you’re having a speech audiometry test, you’ll be brought into a quiet room and will, once again, be instructed to put on some headphones. Instead of making you focus on tones, this test will consist of audible speech at different volumes to identify the lowest level you can hear a word and still understand it.
- Speech and Noise-in-Words Tests: Naturally, real-world conversations rarely occur in a vacuum. A speech and noise-in-words test will go through the same procedure as speech audiometry, but the test takes place in a noisy room rather than a quiet one. This mimics real-world situations to help figure out 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 effectively sound vibrations travel through the ear is measured by this test. This test can often identify whether there is a blockage in your ear (ex: if you’re unable to hear, but your inner ear is working perfectly there could be some sort of obstruction blocking the sounds).
- Tympanometry: Sometimes, we’ll want to test the general health of your eardrum. Tympanometry is a test that is utilized for this purpose. 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 reveal that.
- Acoustic Reflex Measures: During this test, a tiny device delivers sound to your ear and measures the muscle feedback of your inner ear. It all occurs by reflex, which means that your muscle movements can tell us a lot about how well your middle ear is functioning.
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR): The ability of your inner ear and brain to respond to sound is measured by an ABR test. This is achieved by placing a couple of tactically placed electrodes on the outside of your skull. This test is totally painless so don’t worry. It’s one of the reasons why ABR testing is used on people from grandparents to newborns!
- Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Testing: This kind of testing will help identify if your inner ear and cochlea are working properly. It does this by measuring the sound waves that echo back from your inner ear into your middle ear. If your cochlea isn’t working efficiently or there’s an obstruction, this test will detect it.
What do the results of hearing tests tell us?
Chances are, you usually won’t take every single one of these hearing tests. Usually, your particular symptoms will dictate which of these tests will be appropriate.
When we test your hearing, what are we looking for? A hearing test can sometimes uncover the cause of your hearing loss. In other cases, the test you take may just eliminate other possible causes. Whatever hearing loss symptoms you’re noticing will ultimately be determined.
Generally, your hearing test will reveal:
- Which treatment strategy is best for your hearing loss: We will be more successfully able to treat your hearing loss once we’ve determined the cause.
- How much your hearing loss has advanced and how severe it is.
- Whether your hearing loss is in a specific frequency range.
- Whether you are dealing with hearing loss or experiencing the symptoms related to hearing loss.
Is there a difference between a hearing screening and a hearing test? The difference between a quiz and a test is an apt example. A screening is rather superficial. A test is a lot more in-depth and can supply usable data.
It’s best to get a hearing test as soon as you can
That’s why it’s important to schedule a hearing test as soon as you notice symptoms. Take it easy, you won’t need to study, and the test isn’t stressful. 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 quite easy, all you need to do is schedule them.