Hearing loss is difficult, if not impossible, to self-diagnose. To illustrate, you can’t really evaluate your level of hearing by simply putting your ear near a speaker. 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 point out that most 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. Whether you’re a high school student or middle-aged medical patient, tests are really just no fun. Taking some time to get to know these tests can help you feel more prepared and, therefore, 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 have your hearing tested. And we’ve likely used the phrase “hearing test” once or twice. You may even be thinking, well, what are the 2 types of hearing tests?
Well, that’s not completely accurate. Because you might undergo a few different kinds of hearing tests, as it turns out. Each one is designed to assess something different or provide you with a specific result. The hearing tests you’re most likely to experience include the following:
- Pure-tone audiometry: Most people are most likely familiar with this hearing test. You listen for a tone on a pair of headphones. Hear a pitch in your right ear? Raise your right hand. Hear the tone in your left ear? Same thing! With this, we can determine which frequencies 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: In some cases, you can hear tones really well, but hearing speech is still something of a challenge. That’s because speech is generally more complex! This test also consists of a pair of headphones in a quiet room. Instead of making you focus on tones, this test will be comprised of audible speech at different volumes to detect the lowest level you can hear a word and still understand it.
- Speech and Noise-in-Words Tests: Of course, real-world conversations seldom happen in a vacuum. 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 can help you figure out how well your hearing is working in real-world scenarios.
- Bone conduction testing: This diagnostic is made to measure the performance of your inner ear. Two little sensors are placed, one on your forehead, and one on your cochlea. Sound is then transmitted through a small device. How efficiently sound vibrations move through the ear is measured by this test. If this test establishes that sound is moving through your ear effectively it could suggest that you have a blockage.
- Tympanometry: The general health of your eardrum sometimes needs to be tested. This is accomplished using a test called tympanometry. During this test, a small device will gently push air into your ear and measure just how much your eardrum moves. 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: A tiny device measures the muscle response of your inner ear after sending sound to it. It all happens 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): An ABR test attempts 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. This test is totally painless so don’t worry. That’s why people 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 properly. This is accomplished by tracking sound that echo’s back to your middle ear from your inner ear. This can detect whether your cochlea is working or, in some situations, if your ear is blocked.
What can we learn from hearing test results?
You most likely won’t need to get all of these hearing tests. Generally, your specific 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 expose the cause of your hearing loss. In other cases, the test you take may simply eliminate other possible causes. Ultimately, we will get to the bottom of any hearing loss symptoms you are experiencing.
Here are some things that your hearing test can reveal:
- The best strategy for treating your hearing loss: Once we’ve identified the cause of your hearing loss, we’ll be able to more effectively provide treatment solutions.
- Whether your hearing loss is in a particular frequency range.
- Whether you are dealing with hearing loss or experiencing the symptoms related to hearing loss.
- How severe your hearing loss is (or, if you’ve had multiple tests over the years, how your hearing loss may have progressed).
What’s the difference between a hearing test and a hearing screening? The difference between a quiz and a test is a good comparison. A screening is rather superficial. A test is designed to supply usable data.
The sooner you take this test, the better
So as soon as you detect symptoms, you should schedule a hearing test. Take it easy, you won’t have to study, and the test isn’t stressful. And the tests aren’t unpleasant or invasive. If you’re wondering, what should I not do before a hearing test, don’t worry, we will have all of that information for you.
Which means hearing tests are pretty easy, all you need to do is schedule them.