Most Common Hearing Tests
If you have scheduled a hearing test in the near future, then knowing what to expect during this process can be hugely beneficial to your peace of mind. While it is impossible to predict precisely which tests your audiologist may need to conduct, below, we have provided a thorough explanation of the most common hearing tests currently in use – so you can prepare ahead of time and make a list of any possible questions you might have.
By far the most common type of hearing test, pure tone audiometry – which is sometimes known as simply pure-tone testing – is an in-depth test of your hearing capabilities.
Before the test begins, you will be provided with a pair of headphones, which you can place over your ears and – if necessary – adjust for comfort. You will then we asked to sit in a booth, which is specially constructed for the purposes of the test.
When you are comfortable, the test will begin. A sound will be played through both headphones; if you can hear the sound, then you can either raise your hand or press a button to indicate this. There will then be a brief pause before another sound is played; again, you indicate if you can hear this, then there is another pause, another sound and so on. The frequency and volume of the sound will change each time, with your responses noted on an audiogram.
It is important to note that a long gap between sounds does not necessarily mean that you have hearing loss; the sounds are not regularly spaced, so brief pauses are to be expected throughout the test.
Bone conduction testing
Bone conduction testing is usually used in conjunction with pure-tone audiometry. Both types of test are pure-tone tests, but bone conduction tests use vibration rather than sound to measure your hearing.
The reason both tests are necessary is that they help to identify the potential cause of any hearing loss you may be experiencing. If the results from both tests primarily align, then sensorineural hearing loss will usually be diagnosed. However, if your results show that you can hear better during bone conduction testing than with pure-tone audiometry, then there may be a structural issue – such as excessive earwax or fluid – that is causing any hearing loss you are experiencing.
The bone conduction test itself is simple, straightforward and pain-free. Your audiologist will place a conductor behind your ear, which will then send vibrations through the bone and directly to the inner ear. The results of the test will then be compared to the standard pure-tone audiogram.
Speech audiometry – or just speech testing – is another common hearing test performed by audiologists. In particular, the test seeks to establish your speech reception threshold (SRT); the faintest speech you can understand 50 percent of the time.
The test is, again, very easy to take. You will be asked to listen to speech; the speech may be recorded or your audiologist will speak to you directly. First, the test will seek to establish the level of speech you can hear. With your SRT established, you will be asked to repeat words that you hear, which will be played far above your SRT to confirm that you understand the words as they are spoken.
Tympanometry is used to ascertain if there are any physical issues within the ear, such as a buildup of ear wax or fluid, tumors or eardrum perforations. The test works by measuring the way that your eardrum responds to air pressure.
The test is straightforward and requires no specific involvement on your part – in fact, it is best to keep entirely still during the test, in order to ensure the most accurate results. Your audiologist will first examine your ears using an otoscope to check for signs of infection or ear wax build up. Next, they will insert a device into your ear canal; most people find this is entirely painless, but it may feel somewhat uncomfortable. However, if you experience pain when the probe is inserted, inform your audiologist as soon as possible.
When you’re happy to proceed, the test will begin, with the probe changing the air pressure and causing the eardrum to move. You may hear loud noises during this process, which is completely normal. In total, the test should last for two to three minutes, per ear; the results are then recorded in a tympanogram and analyzed by your audiologist.
While there are other types of hearing tests that your audiologist may order, the above tests are by far the most common and are utilized by audiologists to obtain a comprehensive insight into your overall ear and hearing health.
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