Self-diagnosing hearing loss is virtually impossible. To illustrate, you can’t really evaluate your level of hearing by merely putting your ear near a speaker. So getting your hearing tested will be essential in understanding what’s going on with your hearing.
Now, before you start sweating or anxiously fidgeting, it’s important to mention that the majority of hearing tests are quite easy and require nothing more taxing than putting on a pair of fancy headphones.
But we get it, people don’t like tests. Tests are generally no fun for anyone of any age. You will be more relaxed and more prepared if you take a little time to get to know these tests. There’s almost no test easier to take than a hearing test!
How is a hearing test done?
We often talk about making an appointment with a hearing specialist to have your hearing assessed. And we’ve probably used the phrase “hearing test” once or twice. You might even be thinking, well, what are the 2 types of hearing tests?
Well, that’s somewhat misleading. Because you may undergo a number of different types of hearing tests, as it turns out. Each of these tests will provide you with a specific result and is designed to measure something different. The hearing tests you’re most likely to encounter include the following:
- Pure-tone audiometry: This is the hearing test you’re probably most familiar with. You wear some headphones and you listen for a tone. Hear a pitch in your right ear? Raise your right hand. Hear the pitch in your left ear? Same thing! This will test how well you 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, you can hear tones really well, but hearing speech is still something of a challenge. Speech is typically a more complex audio range so it can be harder to hear clearly. This test also is comprised 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 various 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 almost never occur 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 mimics real-world situations to help figure out how your hearing is working in those settings.
- Bone conduction testing: This diagnostic is designed to measure the performance of your inner ear. Two little sensors are placed, one on your forehead, and the other on your cochlea. Sound is then sent through a small device. How effectively sound vibrations travel through the ear is tracked by this test. This test can usually detect whether there is a blockage in your ear (ex: if you’re unable to hear, but your inner ear is working fine there might be some kind of obstruction blocking the sounds).
- Tympanometry: Occasionally, we’ll want to check the overall health of your eardrum. This is accomplished 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 identify whether there’s a hole in your eardrum, fluid behind your eardrum membrane, and more.
- Acoustic Reflex Measures: During this test, a tiny device delivers sound to your ear and measures the muscle response 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 functioning.
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR): An ABR test tries to measure how well the brain and inner ear are reacting to sound. This is accomplished by placing a couple of tactically placed electrodes on the outside of your skull. This test is entirely painless so don’t worry. It’s one of the reasons why ABR testing is used on people 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 tracking 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 reveal it.
What do the results of hearing tests tell us?
Chances are, you usually won’t undergo every single one of these hearing tests. Generally, 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 uncover the cause of your hearing loss. In other circumstances, the test you take might simply eliminate other possible causes. Essentially, we will get to the bottom of any hearing loss symptoms you are experiencing.
Here are some things that your hearing test can reveal:
- How profound your hearing loss is (or, if you’ve had multiple tests over the years, how your hearing loss might have progressed).
- Whether you’re dealing with symptoms associated with hearing loss or hearing loss itself.
- Which wavelengths of sound you have the most difficult time hearing (some people have a difficult time hearing high wavelengths; others have a tough time hearing low pitches).
- Which treatment approach is best for your hearing loss: Once we’ve established the cause of your hearing loss, we’ll be able to more successfully offer treatment options.
Is there any difference between a hearing screening and a hearing test? It’s kind of like the difference between a quiz and a test. A screening is very superficial. A test is a lot more in-depth and can supply usable information.
It’s best to get tested as soon as possible
So as soon as you notice symptoms, you need to schedule a hearing test. Relax, you won’t have to study, and the test isn’t stressful. And the tests aren’t painful or invasive. If you’re wondering, what you shouldn’t do before you get a hearing test, don’t worry, we will have all of that information for you.
It’s easy, just call and schedule an appointment.