Hearing testing is generally only required when you perceive a loss of hearing, regardless of the cause. In the case of an injury or illness, you may be referred to a physician prior to the testing.
Hearing tests are conducted to assess your ability to hear a range of sounds to determine the degree and type of hearing loss you may have. Hearing testing is painless and does not require preparation unless you are known to have problems with excessive earwax. If you have excessive earwax, it should be removed by your physician prior to testing so that it does not affect the test results. It is also advisable to avoid noisy environments for a period of 48 hours prior to your test.
The audiologist or hearing instrument specialist will discuss the results of the tests with you and a copy of the audiogram will be sent to your physician for their review.
Hearing testing itself can include several different tests depending upon your concerns and the test results.
Prior to a hearing test, the audiologist or hearing instrument specialist ask a series of questions such as:
- has your hearing changed gradually or did it change suddenly?
- is there a family history of hearing loss?
- do you notice a difference between the hearing in your ears?
- do you have a history of ear infections?
- do you have any dizziness or tinnitus (ringing, hissing, buzzing sounds in the ears)?
- have you had surgery on your ears?
- have you been exposed to occupational or other excessive noise in your life?
- have you ever worn a hearing aid?
- for a child, has there been any speech or language delays?
Examination with Otoscope
Using an otoscope, your ears are examined for any signs of infection, perforations of the eardrum or excessive earwax. If excessive earwax is seen, the audiologist or hearing instrument specialist may be able to remove it, however, there are times that they may suggest removal by a physician first and then return to the clinic on another day for testing.
This test requires that you sit in a sound-proof booth with soft foam earplugs inserted into the ears. This test is used to assess the level that you can hear sounds at different frequencies in each ear. The results are plotted on a graph referred to as an audiogram.
This series of tests determines the softest level at which you can hear two syllable words and your ability to discriminate words at a comfortable volume level. Often your ability to understand speech in noisy environments is also assessed.
This part of the testing measures how you hear through bone conduction. This testing bypasses the middle ear and the results of the air and bone conduction testing are used to identify what type of hearing loss you have: conductive loss, sensorineural hearing loss or mixed hearing loss.
Tympanometry provides valuable information regarding the function of the middle ear and mobility of the eardrum. A soft rubber tip is inserted into the ear canal and a small amount of air is pumped into the ear canal.
Acoustic Reflex Testing
This test is performed by the audiologist. A series of loud tones are presented to assess the acoustic reflex (the involuntary contraction of the muscles in the middle ear in response to loud sounds).
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE’S)
This test is performed by the audiologist. Otoacoustic emissions assess the outer hair cell function in the cochlea. This test is often included in the battery of tests conducted specifically with young children. A small rubber probe is placed in the ear and a series of clicking tones are presented.