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What Types of Tests Occur During a Hearing Evaluation?

What Types of Tests Occur During a Hearing Evaluation?

If you’ve had your hearing screened and the results suggest hearing loss, the next step is a full hearing evaluation with an audiologist. If you’ve never been through the process before and don’t know what to expect, here is a brief explanation of the procedures your audiologist will most likely use to accurately diagnose your hearing loss.

The purpose of hearing tests

The hearing screening you received is the first indication you may have hearing loss, but there are many aspects of hearing that need to be evaluated in detail so your health needs can be met. They include the following:

  • Verification of hearing loss
  • The cause of hearing loss
  • The degree of hearing loss
  • Treatment choices based on these findings

Here are the most common hearing tests audiologists use to determine these aspects of hearing. Keep in mind these tests will vary depending on the type of hearing loss the audiologist suspects you have, along with many other factors. 

Pure-tone testing

This is an air-conduction test that determines the faintest sounds or tones you can hear at various frequencies, and it requires headphones. As tones are fed into the headphones, you’ll be given instructions on how and when to respond, whether raising a hand or finger, speaking aloud or pressing a button in response. The final results will be recorded on an audiogram, which gives the audiologist a visual representation of the range of your hearing loss.

Speech testing

Speech tests, such as the speech response threshold, will help confirm pure-tone testing results in adults and older children. It specifically records the faintest speech sounds you can hear at least half of the time. You’ll also be asked to recognize words and repeat them back. Both accuracy and volume can indicate how well you are hearing these sounds.  Other tests may ask you to identify speech in different environments, such as background noise.

Middle ear tests

Your audiologist will also conduct physical exams and tests to verify the health and functionality of your middle ear, especially if they suspect your hearing loss is linked to middle ear infections or disease, fluid retention, a damaged ear drum or even earwax buildup. Three main tests will use air pressure and sound and record how your eardrum and inner ear muscles respond to them.

Otoacoustic emissions tests (OAEs)

Everyone with normal hearing produces emissions – inaudible sounds produced by the vibration of hair cells on the cochlea in response to stimulation. When your hearing loss exceeds 25-30 dBs, the emissions don’t happen. By testing for emissions, audiologists can detect hearing loss, blockages and inner ear damage.

As part of a comprehensive hearing evaluation, these and other tests are an important part of fully diagnosing and effectively treating hearing loss. If your screening indicates the possibility of hearing loss, don’t skip this important next step with an audiologist.