Hearing loss is challenging, if not impossible, to diagnose by yourself. For instance, you can’t really put your ear up to a speaker and subjectively calculate what you hear. Which means that if you want to understand what’s happening with your hearing, you need to get it tested.
Now, before you start sweating or fidgeting anxiously, it’s important to mention that the majority of hearing tests are rather easy and require nothing more difficult than putting on a pair of fancy headphones.
But we get it, people don’t like tests. Tests are generally no fun for anybody of any age. Taking some time to become familiar with these tests can help you feel more prepared and, as a result, more relaxed. A hearing test is probably the easiest test you’ll ever take!
How is a hearing test performed?
We frequently talk about scheduling an appointment with a hearing specialist to have your ears tested. 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’re all about.
Well, that’s not exactly accurate. Because as it happens, there are a number of different hearing tests you may undergo. Each one is designed to assess something different or provide you with a specific result. Here are a few of the hearing tests you’re likely to experience:
- Pure-tone audiometry: This is the hearing test you’re likely most familiar with. You listen for a tone on a pair of headphones. You just put up your right hand if you hear a tone in your right ear, and if you hear a pitch in your left ear you raise your left hand. With this, we can establish which wavelengths and volumes of sound you can hear. It will also measure whether you have more significant hearing loss in one ear than the other.
- Speech audiometry: In some cases, hearing speech is a problem for you even though you can hear tones just fine. That’s because speech is generally more complex! This test also features a set of headphones in a quiet room. You will listen to speech at different volumes to determine the lowest level you can hear words and clearly understand them.
- Speech and Noise-in-Words Tests: Of course, real-world conversations seldom occur in a vacuum. A speech and noise-in-words test will go through the same process as speech audiometry, but the test occurs 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 situations.
- Bone conduction testing: How well your inner ear is functioning will be determined by this test. Two little sensors are placed, one on your forehead, and one on your cochlea. Sound is then sent through a small device. This test tracks how well those sound vibrations move through your inner ear. If this test establishes that sound is traveling through your ear effectively it could indicate that you have a blockage.
- Tympanometry: The general health of your eardrum sometimes requires testing. This is done using a test called tympanometry. Air will be gently blown into your ear so that we can measure how much movement your eardrum has. The results of this test can reveal whether there’s a hole in your eardrum, fluid behind your eardrum membrane, and more.
- Acoustic Reflex Measures: During this test, a tiny device supplies sound to your ear and observes the muscle feedback of your inner ear. It all occurs by reflex, which means that the movements of your muscles can tell us a lot about how well your middle ear is working.
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR): An ABR test tries to measure how well the brain and inner ear are reacting to sound. To achieve this test, a couple of electrodes are tactically placed on your skull. Don’t worry, though! This test is entirely painless. That’s why everyone from newborns to grandparents get this test.
- Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Testing: This type of testing will help identify if your inner ear and cochlea are working effectively. It does this by tracking the sound waves that echo back from your inner ear into your middle ear. If your cochlea isn’t working efficiently or there’s a blockage, this test will detect it.
What can we learn from hearing test results?
Chances are, you probably won’t take every single one of these hearing tests. Usually, your particular symptoms will determine which of these tests will be appropriate.
When we do a hearing test, what are we looking for? Well, sometimes the tests you take will uncover the underlying cause of your hearing loss. In other circumstances, the test you take might simply rule out other possible causes. Whatever hearing loss symptoms you’re experiencing will ultimately be determined.
Here are some things that your hearing test can uncover:
- The best approach for managing your hearing loss: We will be more successfully able to address your hearing loss once we’ve established the cause.
- Which frequency of sound you have the most difficult time hearing (some individuals have a hard time hearing high wavelengths; other people have a hard time hearing low pitches).
- How profound your hearing loss is (or, if you’ve taken multiple tests over the years, how your hearing loss may have progressed).
- Whether you’re experiencing symptoms related to hearing loss or hearing loss itself.
What’s the difference between a hearing test and a hearing screening? It’s sort of like the difference between a quiz and a test. A screening is really superficial. A test is designed to supply usable data.
The sooner you take this test, the better
That’s why it’s essential to schedule a hearing test as soon as you observe symptoms. Relax, you won’t need to study, and the test isn’t stressful. Nor are hearing tests intrusive or generally unpleasant. We will give you all of the information about what to do and not to do before your hearing test.
Which means hearing tests are fairly easy, all you need to do is schedule them.