You should consider having a hearing test if you’re over 60 or your occupation exposes you to loud noises. Here’s what you can expect during your hearing test.
Health History Assessment and Physical Evaluation
Along with asking about any family history of hearing loss, your audiologist will want to know about your medical history. They will want to verify if you have any health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, that might contribute to your hearing loss.
You should also describe any of these concerns:
- Head or neck trauma
- Ear or sinus infections
- Seasonal illnesses like a cold or the flu
Be prepared to discuss your daily symptoms and how your hearing loss affects your ability to converse with people and interact with different soundscapes. Your audiologist will review your lifestyle and habits, too. For instance, are you a smoker, or do your hobbies frequently expose you to loud sounds?
And before the audiological exam begins, your doctor will complete a physical examination of your ear to rule out any problems with your outer ear and ear canal.
Types of Hearing Loss
Hearing tests are used to determine your type and degree of hearing loss.
There are three types:
Sensorineural hearing loss: This type of hearing loss occurs when the inner ear or nerve pathways that lead to the brain are damaged. That can be caused by aging, head trauma, ototoxic medication, illness or malformation.
Conductive hearing loss: This condition happens when there’s a problem transmitting sound from the outer or middle ear to the inner ear. It’s usually caused by a blockage in the ear, such as earwax, cysts, tumors, fluid or foreign objects. Abnormal bone growths may also result in conductive hearing loss.
Mixed: This is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.
Types of Hearing Tests
Audiological evaluations are painless and non-invasive. You’ll be tested in a quiet, sound-proof room or booth so outside noises won’t skew your results.
Pure-tone audiometry: This is the most common type of hearing test and is usually the first step in your evaluation. You’ll wear a set of headphones or earbuds and listen to a series of tones played at different frequencies and pitches. It’s used to determine the softest sounds you can hear.
Bone conduction test: Like pure-tone audiometry, a bone conduction test measures your lowest hearing threshold. A headband with an attached oscillator sends vibrations through your skull to bypass your outer and middle ear and measure your inner ear’s response.
Speech audiometry: This test evaluates how well you can hear and repeat spoken words. Sounds are played at various volumes and pitches to determine your hearing capabilities.
Speech in noise tests: A soundtrack is played over speech to quantify your hearing ability in noisy environments. This test is used to evaluate your real-world hearing outside a quiet testing space.
Tympanometry: Soft earplugs are placed in your ears to measure the muscle response of your middle ear. Air is pushed into your eardrum to monitor its movement as the pressure changes.
Understanding Your Results
Your hearing test results will be printed on an audiogram, which shows the hearing loss in each ear measured in decibels. Your audiologist can thoroughly explain your results to ensure you understand your hearing health.
Hearing loss is classified by the following measurements:
- Normal: 0 to 25 dB of hearing loss
- Mild: 26 to 40 dB of hearing loss
- Moderate: 41 to 70 dB of hearing loss
- Severe: 71 to 90 dB of hearing loss
- Profound: 91+ dB of hearing loss