Hearing loss is challenging, if not impossible, to self-diagnose. As an example, you can’t really measure your level of hearing by merely putting your ear near a speaker. That means that if you want to know what’s going on with your hearing, you need to get it tested.
Now, before you start sweating or fidgeting anxiously, it’s important to point out that the majority of hearing tests are rather easy and require nothing more taxing 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. You will be more comfortable and more prepared if you take a little time to get to know these tests. A hearing test is probably the simplest test you’ll ever have to take!
How is a hearing test performed?
We often talk about scheduling an appointment with a hearing specialist to have your ears checked. And the phrase “hearing test” is something we’ve probably discussed on occasion. 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 completely accurate. Because you might undergo a number of different types of hearing tests, as it turns out. Each of them is made to measure something different or give you a specific result. The hearing tests you’re most likely to encounter include the following:
- Pure-tone audiometry: Most individuals are probably familiar with this hearing test. You put on some headphones and you listen for a tone. Hear a tone in your right ear? Raise your right hand. Hear the tone in your left ear? Same thing! This will test your ability to hear a variety of frequencies at a variety of volumes. And if you have more profound hearing loss in one ear, this test will also determine that.
- Speech audiometry: Sometimes, hearing speech is an issue 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 clearly. 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: Naturally, real-world conversations almost never take place in a vacuum. The only real difference between this test and the Speech audiometry test is that it is carried out in a noisy setting. This can help you determine how well your hearing is working in real-world scenarios.
- Bone conduction testing: This diagnostic is created to measure the performance of your inner ear. A small sensor is placed near your cochlea and another is placed on your forehead. Sound is then transmitted through a small device. How efficiently sound vibrations move through the ear is tracked by this test. This test can usually identify whether there is an obstruction in your ear (ex: if you’re unable to hear, but your inner ear is working fine there might be some sort of obstruction blocking the sounds).
- Tympanometry: Occasionally, we’ll want to test the overall health of your eardrum. 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 your muscle movements 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. This is achieved by putting a couple of strategically 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 everyone from grandparents to newborns!
- Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Testing: This type of testing will help identify if your inner ear and cochlea are working effectively. It does this by measuring the sound waves that echo back from your inner ear into your middle ear. This can identify whether your cochlea is working or, in some situations, if your ear is blocked.
What do the results of hearing tests reveal?
You probably won’t need to get all of these hearing tests. We will choose one or two tests that best address your symptoms and then go from there.
What do we look for in a hearing test? A hearing test can sometimes expose the cause of your hearing loss. The hearing test you get can, in other instances, simply help us eliminate other causes. Essentially, we will get to the bottom of any hearing loss symptoms you are noticing.
In general, your hearing test will reveal:
- How profound your hearing loss is (or, if you’ve had 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.
- The best approach for treating your hearing loss: We will be more successfully able to address your hearing loss once we’ve established the cause.
- Which wavelengths of sound you have the hardest time hearing (some individuals have a difficult time hearing high frequencies; others have a hard time hearing low sounds).
What is the difference between a hearing test and a hearing screening? It’s kind of like the difference between a quiz and a test. A screening is really superficial. A test is a lot more in-depth and can supply usable data.
The sooner you get tested, the better
That’s why it’s essential to schedule a hearing test when you first notice symptoms. Don’t worry, this test isn’t going to be very stressful, and you don’t need to study. And the tests aren’t unpleasant or intrusive. If you’re wondering, what you shouldn’t do before a hearing test, don’t worry, we will have all of that information for you.
It’s simple, just call and schedule an appointment.