Hearing Tests: Types, Details, & Diagnosis

Hearing test showing ear of young woman with sound waves simulation technology - isolated on white banner - black and white.

Diagnosing hearing loss by yourself is basically impossible. For instance, you can’t actually put your ear next to a speaker and subjectively calculate what you hear. Which means that if you want to understand what’s happening with your hearing, you have to take a test.

Now, before you start sweating or anxiously fidgeting, it’s important to point out that most hearing tests are very easy and involve nothing more challenging than wearing a pair of fancy headphones.

Alright, tests aren’t everyone’s favorite thing to do. Tests are generally no fun for anyone of any age. Taking a little time to get to know these tests can help you feel more prepared and, therefore, more relaxed. There’s almost no test easier to take than a hearing test!

What is a hearing test like?

We often talk about scheduling an appointment with a hearing specialist to get your hearing tested. And we’ve probably used the phrase “hearing test” a couple of times. Maybe, you’ve heard that there are two types of hearing tests and you’re wondering what they’re all about.

Well, that’s not quite accurate. Because you might undergo a few different kinds of hearing tests, as it turns out. Each of these tests will give you a specific result and is designed to measure something different. The hearing tests you’re most likely to experience include the following:

  • Pure-tone audiometry: Most individuals are most likely familiar with this hearing test. You listen for a sound on a set of headphones. You simply put up your right hand if you hear a pitch in your right ear, and if you hear a tone in your left ear you put up your left hand. This will test your ability to hear a variety of frequencies at a variety of volumes. It will also measure whether you have more significant hearing loss in one ear than the other.
  • Speech audiometry: In some cases, hearing speech is an issue for you despite the fact that you can hear tones clearly. That’s because speech is typically more complex! This test also features a set of headphones in a quiet room. Instead of making you listen to tones, this test will consist of audible speech at different volumes to detect the lowest level you can hear a word and still understand it.
  • Speech and Noise-in-Words Tests: Obviously, conversations in real-time occur in settings where other sounds are present. The only real difference between this test and the Speech audiometry test is that it is carried out in a noisy setting. This can help you determine how well your hearing is functioning in real-world situations.
  • Bone conduction testing: This diagnostic is designed to measure the function of your inner ear. A little sensor is placed next to your cochlea and another is placed on your forehead. A small device then receives sounds. This test tracks how well those sound vibrations travel through your inner ear. This test can usually identify whether there is a blockage in your ear (ex: if you’re unable to hear, but your inner ear is working fine there might be some kind of obstruction blocking the sounds).
  • Tympanometry: On occasion, we’ll want to check the general health of your eardrum. Tympanometry is a test that is utilized for this purpose. Air will be gently blown into your ear so that we can measure how much movement your eardrum has. If you have fluid behind your eardrum, or a hole in your eardrum, this is the test that will reveal that.
  • Acoustic Reflex Measures: During this test, a tiny device delivers sound to your ear and observes the muscle feedback of your inner ear. It all occurs by reflex, which means that the movements of your muscles can tell us a lot about how well your middle ear is working.
  • Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR): An ABR test attempts to measure how well the brain and inner ear are reacting to sound. This is accomplished by putting a couple of tactically placed electrodes on the outside of your skull. Don’t worry, though! This test is completely painless. It’s one of the reasons why ABR testing is used on everyone from grandparents to newborns!
  • Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Testing: This kind of testing will help determine if your inner ear and cochlea are working properly. This is accomplished by measuring sound that echo’s back to your middle ear from your inner ear. This can detect whether your cochlea is working or, in some cases, if your ear is blocked.

What do the results of hearing tests reveal?

You probably won’t need to get all of these hearing tests. Generally, your specific symptoms will determine which of these tests will be relevant.

What are we looking for in a hearing test? A hearing test can sometimes reveal the cause of your hearing loss. The hearing test you get can, in other instances, simply help us rule out other causes. Essentially, we will get to the bottom of any hearing loss symptoms you are experiencing.

Here are a few things that your hearing test can reveal:

  • Which frequency of sound you have the most difficult time hearing (some people have a hard time hearing high frequencies; other people have a difficult time hearing low sounds).
  • Whether you’re experiencing symptoms associated with hearing loss or hearing loss itself.
  • How much your hearing loss has progressed and how severe it is.
  • The best strategy for managing your hearing loss: We will be more effectively able to address your hearing loss once we’ve determined the cause.

Is there any difference between a hearing screening and a hearing test? The difference between a quiz and a test is an apt example. A screening is rather superficial. A test is designed to provide usable information.

The sooner you get tested, the better

That’s why it’s important to schedule a hearing test when you first notice symptoms. Relax, you won’t need to study, and the test isn’t stressful. Nor are hearing tests invasive or generally unpleasant. If you’re wondering, what you shouldn’t do before you get a hearing test, don’t worry, we will have all of that information for you.

Which means hearing tests are quite easy, all you need to do is schedule them.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.