What is Pure Tone Audiometry?
Pure tone audiometry is a behavioural hearing test that is designed to measure the severity and balance (unilateral or bilateral) of a person's hearing loss. A hearing care professional is the best provider to administer this test. The results are recorded on an audiogram; they will show the participant's pure tone threshold (PTT), namely, the quietest sound that can be heard at least 50 percent of the time. To put it simply, on completion of this test, your hearing care provider will be able to tell you what degree of hearing loss you are suffering with and whether it affects one or both of your ears.
Degrees of hearing loss
- Mild (26-40dB): People suffering with mild hearing loss can usually cope without the use of hearing aids. They may find that their hearing loss causes them to lose focus on events around them, or cause tiredness after long periods of attentive listening. There may also be some difficulty in understanding softly spoken speech.
- Moderate (41-55dB): Moderate hearing loss can affect language development if experienced from childhood. This level of hearing loss has also been associated with social problems and low self-esteem. People who suffer with moderate hearing loss may have trouble hearing some conversational speech.
- Moderate-severe (56-70dB): People with this degree of hearing loss do not hear most normal-volume speech in a conversational setting. They may also suffer from slightly decreased clarity of speech as a result of their hearing loss.
- Severe: (71-90dB): People with severe hearing loss will not be able to hear even loudly spoken conversation. They will almost certain have trouble with clarity of speech, depending on at what age their hearing loss developed.
- Profound (>90dB): Inability to hear sound of any level.
What does the test entail?
Pure tone testing is a completely painless procedure. During the test you will be asked to sit in a sound proof room to prevent any background noise interfering with the test results. The test administrator will give you a pair of head phones to wear; sounds of varying frequencies and volumes will be played through the head phones into both ears individually and you will be asked to signal whenever you can hear a sound, usually by pressing a button or raising your hand – it’s as simple as that!
This test is the usually the first port of call for hearing care providers when they are assessing new patients. While pure tone audiometry can give a very accurate measurement of hearing loss, it cannot shed any light on the type or cause of your hearing loss, so your hearing care provider may want to run additional hearing tests.