What to Expect During a Hearing Test
Are you curious about what happens during a hearing test?
Whether you’re a first-timer or you are accompanying a friend to a hearing test, it can be helpful to know what to expect.
Hearing tests are straightforward and usually last anywhere from one to two hours. But most importantly, hearing tests are painless, non-invasive and easier than most people realize. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what to expect.
Collecting your medical history
The audiologist will take a medical history, including any medications you are currently on. This is crucial because certain health problems and their treatments can impact your hearing. Likewise, when an audiologist sees certain patterns on the audiogram, these can be suggestive of certain health problems. Knowing any existing conditions you have, such as diabetes or cardiovascular issues, could influence the audiologist’s advice.
Physical exam of the ear
The audiologist inspects the ear canal with an otoscope. This is to check for physical problems that block the passage of sounds, such as earwax buildup or polyps.
Administering hearing tests
The audiologist will test your hearing in a variety of ways. These different tests all give valuable information about different aspects of your hearing. This helps them to narrow down and identify the root cause of any problems. This localization is important because hearing is a complex process that involves air vibrations (sound) being changed into mechanical energy inside the middle ear, then electrical energy in the inner ear, and finally nerve impulses sent to the brain.
The types of hearing tests include:
- Pure-tone audiometry: For this test, a variety of sounds of different pitches and volumes are played into headphones. You press a button each time you hear the sound. This allows the audiologist to chart what you can and can’t hear.
- Speech recognition: Speech recognition tests your ability to distinguish speech, but without the presence of visual clues like lip movements or facial expressions. During this test you are played speech through the headphones, and sometimes asked to listen to speech against background noise.
- Bone conduction test: This painless test measures how well sound conducted through your bone is detected by the inner ear. It also tests the efficiency of the latter plus the hearing nerves. The test simply involves a small vibrating probe being placed against your skull, just behind the ear. While it can sound intimidating, it’s completely painless.
- Tympanometry: This involves a small plug being placed in your ear while a machine gently changes the pressure within the ear canal. This helps to distinguish if the middle ear contains fluid that shouldn’t be there or not.
- Tuning fork test: For this test, the audiologist taps a tuning fork and holds it at various positions around your head. This helps distinguish between hearing loss due to problems with the mechanical side of hearing sound and the nerve-related side.
While the different amount of hearing tests provided by an audiologist can seem extensive and overwhelming, they each play an important role in diagnosing hearing loss. To ease your mind, talk more with your audiologist about what hearing tests they’ll be performing on you.