A hearing test measures a person’s ability to process sounds of different frequencies and volumes. Hearing tests provide important information that can help you and your audiologist decide on the best hearing aid for you.
In most situations, an audiologist performs the hearing test with a device called an audiometer. The patient wears headphones or earbuds to ensure that sound is only heard by each ear individually; the test is conducted in a sound-proof room. The audiometer delivers sounds of different frequencies to the right or left ear separately, and the patient indicates that they have heard the sound by verbally replying, or by pushing a button or lifting the hand or a finger on the corresponding side of the body.
For children who cannot or will not cooperate with standard testing, alternatives like visual reinforcement audiometry (which rewards the child with a desirable image) or conditioned play audiometry (which encourages specific play when the sound is heard) may be used. There are specific hearing aids for children that are available for those with hearing loss.
HINT (Hearing In Noise Test)
This hearing test gauges how well the patient can detect conversation in quiet and noisy environments, including speech from different directions. The volume of the speech is increased until the person can accurately repeat the phrases about half of the time. This measure is called the speech reception threshold or SRT.
Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)
Also called auditory evoked potential (AEP), this test is typically used for individuals who may not be able to participate in standard testing like the pure-tone test. Electrodes are placed on the person’s head to measure the brain waves produced in response to hearing the sounds in the test.
When we hear a sound, a small muscle contained in the inner ear contracts. At what volume level (if at all) this contraction occurs helps the audiologist further determine the extent of hearing impairment.
To check how mobile the person’s eardrum is, this test sends air into the ear canal and measures the movement of the eardrum. Tympanometry is generally used to test for the presence of wax or fluid in the middle ear, or to see whether the eardrum has been perforated.
So what happens during a Hearing Test anyway?
When you arrive for your exam, you will be greeted by the front office staff and asked to fill out several forms, including those that record your personal information, medical history and verify your insurance. You will also receive a copy of a Notice of Privacy as mandated by law.
As your exam begins, your Audiologist will review your personal information with you and will ask you some questions that are designed to discover the specific types of environments in which you may be experiencing some difficulty in hearing.
Next, the Audiologist will look into your ears by using an otoscope. This instrument is used to see the ear canal and the ear drum and whether or not there is ear wax obstructing the canal.
The first test that is conducted is the pure tone hearing test. This is conducted in a quiet environment, sometimes in a soundproof booth. The Audiologist will place headphones that are connected to an audiometer over your ears. The audiometer transmits a series of tones at a variety of volumes into your ears to determine the exact point or "threshold" at which you can hear various frequencies of sounds. When you hear a sound, you will be asked to say "yes" or raise your hand.
The next test is speech testing. The audiologist will ask you to listen to a series of one and two syllable words at different volumes and then ask you to repeat them. This will determine the level at which you can detect and understand speech. Another test that may be conducted is a speech in noise test. This test will determine how well you hear sentences in a noisy environment.
The results of your tests will be recorded on a form called an audiogram, which the Audiologist will review with you. The audiogram reflects your hearing loss in frequencies and decibels. You will be shown the type, pattern and degree of hearing loss, as well as the percentage of normal conversational speech that you are still able to hear. Your Audiologist will then relate these results to your concerns about your hearing. The next step is to consider treatment solutions.