Hearing loss is challenging, if not impossible, to diagnose by yourself. To illustrate, you can’t really assess your level of hearing by simply putting your ear near a speaker. Which means that if you want to know what’s happening with your hearing, you have to take a test.
Now, before you begin sweating or anxiously fidgeting, it’s important to mention that most hearing tests are very easy and involve nothing more challenging than putting on a pair of fancy headphones.
But we get it, people don’t like tests. Whether you’re a student or middle-aged medical patient, tests are just generally no fun. You will be more comfortable and more ready if you take a little time to get to know these tests. A hearing test is about the easiest test you’ll ever take!
What is a hearing test like?
We frequently talk about making an appointment with a hearing specialist to have your ears tested. And the phrase “hearing test” is something we’ve probably discussed from time to time. Perhaps, you’ve heard that there are two types of hearing tests and you’re wondering what they are all about.
Well, that’s not exactly accurate. Because it turns out there are a few different hearing tests you might undergo. Each of these tests will provide you with a particular result and is created to measure something different. The hearing tests you’re most likely to encounter include the following:
- Pure-tone audiometry: Most individuals are most likely familiar with this hearing test. You put on some headphones and you listen for a sound. You just raise your right hand if you hear a pitch in your right ear, and if you hear a pitch in your left ear you put up your left hand. This will test your ability to hear a variety of wavelengths at a variety of volumes. And if you have more profound hearing loss in one ear, this test will also determine that.
- Speech audiometry: In some cases, you can hear tones very well, but hearing speech is still somewhat of a challenge. That’s because speech is typically more complex! When you’re having a speech audiometry test, you’ll be brought into a quiet room and will, again, be instructed to put on some headphones. You will listen to speech at various volumes to determine the lowest volume you can hear words and clearly understand them.
- Speech and Noise-in-Words Tests: Obviously, conversations in real-time take place in settings where other sounds are present. 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 mimics real-world situations to help determine how your hearing is working in those situations.
- Bone conduction testing: How well your inner ear is working will be determined by this test. A small sensor is placed next to your cochlea and another is put on your forehead. A small device then receives sounds. This test measures how well those sound vibrations travel through your inner ear. This test can usually detect whether there is an obstruction in your ear (ex: if you can’t hear, but your inner ear is working perfectly there may be some sort of obstruction blocking the sounds).
- Tympanometry: The overall health of your eardrum sometimes needs to be tested. This is done using a test called tympanometry. During this test, a small device will gently push air into your ear and measure exactly how much your eardrum moves. If you have fluid behind your eardrum, or a hole in your eardrum, this is the test that will identify that.
- Acoustic Reflex Measures: A tiny device measures the muscle response of your inner ear after sending sound to it. The reflexive reaction of the muscle movement of your inner ear will help us determine how well it’s working.
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR): The ability of your inner ear and brain to respond to sound is measured by an ABR test. To achieve this test, a couple of electrodes are strategically placed on your skull. Don’t worry, though! This test is completely painless. It’s one of the reasons why ABR testing is used on people from grandparents to newborns!
- Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Testing: This diagnostic is designed to measure how well your cochlea and inner ear are functioning. 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 properly or there’s a blockage, this test will detect it.
What do the results of hearing tests tell us?
You probably won’t have to get all of these hearing tests. Usually, your specific symptoms will determine which of these tests will be relevant.
When we do a hearing test, what are we looking for? A hearing test can sometimes expose the cause of your hearing loss. The hearing test you get can, in other instances, simply help us rule out other causes. Ultimately, we will get to the bottom of any hearing loss symptoms you are noticing.
In general, your hearing test will reveal:
- Which wavelengths of sound you have the most difficult time hearing (some individuals have a hard time hearing high frequencies; other people have a difficult time hearing low sounds).
- How serious your hearing loss is (or, if you’ve taken numerous tests over the years, how your hearing loss may have advanced).
- Whether you are dealing with hearing loss or experiencing the symptoms associated with hearing loss.
- Which treatment approach is best for your hearing loss: Once we’ve established what’s causing your hearing loss, we’ll be able to more effectively offer treatment solutions.
What is the difference between a hearing test and a hearing screening? The difference between a quiz and a test is an apt example. A screening is rather superficial. A test is designed to supply usable data.
The sooner you get tested, the better
So as soon as you observe symptoms, you need to schedule a hearing test. Don’t worry, this test won’t be very stressful, and you don’t need to study. Nor are hearing tests invasive or generally painful. If you’re wondering, what should I not do before you get a hearing test, don’t worry, we will provide you with all of that information.
Which means hearing tests are fairly easy, all you need to do is schedule them.