Self-diagnosing hearing loss is virtually impossible. As an example, you can’t really assess your level of hearing by merely putting your ear next to a speaker. Which means that if you want to understand what’s going on with your hearing, you need to take a test.
Now, before you begin sweating or fidgeting anxiously, it’s important to point out that most hearing tests are very easy and involve nothing more difficult than putting on a pair of fancy headphones.
But we get it, no one likes tests. Whether you’re a student or middle-aged medical patient, tests are just generally no fun. Taking some time to become familiar with these tests can help you feel more prepared and, as a result, more comfortable. There’s virtually no test easier to take than a hearing test!
What is a hearing test like?
We frequently talk about scheduling an appointment with a hearing specialist to have your ears checked. And we’ve likely 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 not quite accurate. Because it turns out there are a few different hearing tests you might undergo. 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: Most people 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? Put up your right hand. Hear the pitch in your left ear? Same thing! 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 challenging. That’s because speech is generally more complex! During a speech audiometry test, you’ll be led into a quiet room and will, again, be instructed to put on some headphones. You will listen to speech at different volumes to determine the lowest level you can hear words and clearly comprehend them.
- Speech and Noise-in-Words Tests: Needless to say, conversations in the real world occur 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 takes place in a noisy room instead of a quiet one. This mimics real-world situations to help determine how your hearing is working in those settings.
- Bone conduction testing: How well your inner ear is working will be determined by this test. A little sensor is placed next to your cochlea and another is placed on your forehead. A small device then receives sounds. How effectively sound vibrations move through the ear is tracked by this test. This test can often detect whether there is a blockage in your ear (ex: if you’re unable to 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 requires testing. Tympanometry is a test that is utilized for this purpose. 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 identify whether there’s a hole in your eardrum, fluid behind your eardrum membrane, and more.
- Acoustic Reflex Measures: A tiny device measures the muscle feedback of your inner ear after delivering 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 responding to sound. To accomplish this test, a couple of electrodes are tactically placed on your skull. Don’t worry, though! This test is completely painless. That’s why everyone from newborns to grandparents get this test.
- Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Testing: This diagnostic is designed to determine how well your cochlea and inner ear are working. This is accomplished by measuring sound that echo’s back to your middle ear from your inner ear. This can determine 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 have to get all of these hearing tests. Generally, your particular 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. The hearing test you get can, in other instances, simply help us rule out other causes. Essentially, we will get to the bottom of any hearing loss symptoms you are experiencing.
Generally, your hearing test will uncover:
- Whether you are suffering from hearing loss or experiencing the symptoms associated with hearing loss.
- How serious your hearing loss is (or, if you’ve had multiple tests over the years, how your hearing loss may have progressed).
- Which wavelengths of sound you have the most difficult time hearing (some individuals have a difficult time hearing high frequencies; other people have a difficult time hearing low sounds).
- Which treatment strategy is best for your hearing loss: Once we’ve identified what’s causing your hearing loss, we’ll be able to more successfully provide treatment solutions.
Is there a difference between a hearing screening and a hearing test? The difference between a quiz and a test is a good analogy. A screening is rather superficial. A test is much more in-depth and can supply usable data.
The sooner you get tested, the better
That’s why it’s important to schedule a hearing test as soon as you observe symptoms. Don’t worry, this test won’t be super stressful, and you don’t have to study. And the tests aren’t unpleasant or intrusive. 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.
It’s simple, just call and schedule an appointment.