What Happens at a Hearing Test
We have eye exams, dental exams and wellness exams. But when is the last time you had a hearing test? Infant hearing is tested after birth and then children are tested at several intervals during elementary school. If you’re in your mid 50s or older and haven’t had a hearing test in decades, it’s time to put it on the to-do list. Your hearing care provider can use the results as a baseline to determine any future hearing loss and treatment. Here’s what happens at a hearing test.
Adult hearing tests
Expect a thorough hearing test to last about an hour. The hearing test actually includes several exams to check the function of the eardrum and hearing nerves. The tests evaluate the degree of hearing loss and whether it is conductive, sensorineural, or both. Conductive hearing loss means that the sound is not getting to the inner ear and may be due to a blockage or an ear infection. Sensorineural loss is due to damage to the hearing nerves and usually is a permanent loss.
The first evaluation usually involves a pure-tone test. In this test, you are in a soundproof room and put on headphones. A series of tones and sounds are played and you must identify the ear in which you hear the sound. The tones and sounds are played at different volumes and different pitches to determine the lowest and highest tones as well as the softest sounds you can hear.
Speech testing also determines how well you hear soft sounds. Words are whispered and spoken softly and may be recorded or live. You will repeat the words you hear.
A tuning fork test also checks for nerve damage. The fork is placed behind your ear and tapped to produce a sound. You note when the sound fades and whether it is louder in one ear or the other.
Hearing tests for children
As mentioned, these tests are performed as a child grows, usually around ages four, five, six and 10. These include a pure-tone test (similar to the adult version) and something called tympanometry. This does not actually test hearing, but checks the movement of the eardrum to determine how well the inner ear works. It involves a small puff of air blown in the ear canal and is not painful.
Hearing tests for infants
Newborns tests include the automated auditory brainstem response test to measure how the baby’s hearing nerve reacts to sound and the otoacoustic emissions test to measure the inner ear’s response to clicks or tones. Toddlers may be tested with a modified version of pure-tone testing.
What happens at a hearing test depends upon several things, including the age of the patient, the severity of any detected hearing loss, and how the hearing loss may be treated. Hearing tests are used for more than just determining if hearing aids are necessary and may help diagnose some other health problems as well.