Hearing loss is difficult, if not impossible, to diagnose by yourself. For instance, you can’t actually put your ear next to a speaker and subjectively measure what you hear. So getting a hearing test will be essential in figuring out what’s happening with your hearing.
But there’s no need to be concerned or stress out because a hearing test is about as straightforward as putting on a high-tech set of headphones.
Alright, tests aren’t everyone’s favorite thing to do. Whether you’re a high school student or middle-aged medical patient, tests are just generally no fun. You will be more relaxed 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!
What is a hearing test like?
We frequently talk about scheduling an appointment with a hearing specialist to get your hearing tested. And the phrase “hearing test” is something we’ve probably talked about from time to time. Maybe, you’ve heard that there are two types of hearing tests and you’re wondering what they are all about.
Well, that’s somewhat misleading. Because it turns out there are a number of different hearing tests you may undergo. Each of these tests will give you 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: This is the hearing test you’re likely most familiar with. You listen for a sound on a pair of headphones. Hear a pitch in your right ear? Put up your right hand. Hear the tone in your left ear? Same thing! This will test how well you hear a variety of wavelengths at a variety of volumes. It will also measure whether you have more significant hearing loss in one ear than the other.
- Speech audiometry: Sometimes, you’re able to hear tones really well, but hearing speech is still somewhat challenging. Speech is typically a more complex audio spectrum so it can be harder to hear clearly. This test also consists of a set of headphones in a quiet room. You will listen to speech at various 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 real-time occur in settings where other sounds are present. The only real difference between this test and the Speech audiometry test is that it is performed in a noisy setting. This mimics real-world situations to help figure out how your hearing is working in those situations.
- Bone conduction testing: This diagnostic is made to measure the function of your inner ear. Two small sensors are placed, one on your forehead, and one on your cochlea. A small device then receives sounds. This test assesses how well those sound vibrations travel through your inner ear. This test can often identify whether there is a blockage in your ear (ex: if you can’t hear, but your inner ear is working fine there might be some sort of obstruction hindering the sounds).
- Tympanometry: Sometimes, 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 in order to measure how much movement your eardrum has. 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 feedback of your inner ear after delivering sound to it. The reflexive reaction of the muscle movement of your inner ear will help us discover how well it’s functioning.
- 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. This test is entirely painless so don’t worry. That’s why people from newborns to grandparents get this test.
- Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Testing: This kind of testing will help determine if your inner ear and cochlea are working properly. It does this by measuring the sound waves that echo back from your inner ear into your middle ear. This can detect whether your cochlea is working or, in some situations, if your ear is blocked.
What do the results of hearing tests reveal?
Chances are, you usually won’t take every single one of these hearing tests. Usually, your specific symptoms will determine which of these tests will be suitable.
What do we look for in a hearing test? Well, in some cases the tests you take will uncover the underlying cause of your hearing loss. In other circumstances, the test you take may simply rule out other possible causes. Ultimately, we will get to the bottom of any hearing loss symptoms you are noticing.
Here are a few things that your hearing test can uncover:
- How much your hearing loss has progressed and how significant it is.
- Which treatment approach will be best for your hearing loss: We will be more effectively able to treat your hearing loss once we’ve determined the cause.
- Whether you are dealing with hearing loss or experiencing the symptoms associated with hearing loss.
- Which wavelengths of sound you have the hardest time hearing (some individuals have a hard time hearing high wavelengths; other people have a difficult time hearing low pitches).
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 really superficial. A test is much more in-depth and can supply usable information.
It’s best to get a hearing test as soon as possible
That’s why it’s essential to schedule a hearing test when you first notice symptoms. Don’t worry, this test won’t be super stressful, and you won’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.
Which means hearing tests are fairly easy, all you need to do is schedule them.