What to Expect From a Hearing Test

Many people already know what an eye test looks like – there’s the poster covered in ever-diminishing letters, and those massive periscope-looking goggles. But if you were asked about what happens during a hearing test, could you confidently answer?

If you don’t know, you might guess that it involves a series of beeps and gauging how loud you think they are. Well, unfortunately for the sake of our argument, you’re right – this is generally what hearing tests are. But if you didn’t know for certain, then it’s high time you arranged a hearing test!

If you’d like to arrange a free consultation/hearing test, look no further than our own quick and easy form. If you fill it out, you’ll be able to attend a hearing test where you can discover all the ins and outs, as well as find out whether or not you need a hearing aid.

Getting a hearing test

Why is getting a hearing test important? Well, think of it this way: why is getting your hearing tested any less important than checking your eyes, teeth, or general health? Your ears are solely responsible for one of your five senses, and yet they’re often left neglected in favour of more obvious body parts.

When a part of your body is responsible for one fifth of the ways you experience the world, you’d think that you’d try to take extra special care of it. But hearing loss is often left unaddressed until it becomes a real problem.

Other than your ears being important, there are two main reasons that hearing tests are essential. The first is that you’ll want to establish a baseline against which your hearing can be gauged in the future.

Establish a baseline

Outside of any special and unfortunate cases, most hearing loss starts to take effect after the age of 40. So, if you were around the age of 50 and started to have concerns about some hearing loss, having your first hearing test could only tell you so much.

If you were to have had a hearing test in the past, however, your results now could be compared to your results from back then. This could help determine if you’re actually experiencing hearing loss, or if your hearing ability has always been below par.

Stop your hearing loss from getting worse

Like we mentioned, a lot of people only wait until after their hearing loss is at a significant level before addressing it. However, in doing this, they risk causing unnecessary strain and further damage to their ears.

If you have mild or moderate hearing loss, then yes, you’ll probably be able to survive without a hearing aid. You’ll find yourself turning things up a bit louder, and asking “what?” a bit more, but you wouldn’t be looking at any massive problems.

That is, until a few years pass. Throughout those years of turning up the TV and straining to hear, you will put your ears through more stress and further damage. This could ramp your hearing loss from mild to severe, giving you little choice than to go for a hearing aid.

So if you leave even a minor case of hearing loss unchecked, you may be setting yourself up for further problems down the road. If you address it as soon as you can, you can stop it from growing into something worse and harder to tackle. Since hearing loss can’t be cured or reversed, the most you can hope for is to slow it down, which is best done in its earlier stages.

What to expect from a hearing test

Like we mentioned earlier, you might not know what a hearing test even looks like – so when we’re telling you how important it is to get one, you could be wondering just what it is we’re pushing you to do.

Hearing test infographic

What kinds of hearing tests are there?

The most basic kind of hearing test would be a hearing screening. It’s a quick pass-fail test where your hearing healthcare professional assesses the state of your hearing. A pass means that you most likely don’t have hearing loss, and you can go home.

A fail means that you will have to undergo a more thorough evaluation, where both you and your hearing specialist can further understand your hearing loss, before discussing treatment options. This screening is also used on newborns, and we break it down in the section below.

Now we’ll look at the four most common hearing tests:

Otoscopy

The simplest test – and probably the one you do recognize – is an otoscopy. The doctor uses a focused torch to look into the patient’s ear canal, and determines if there are any obstructions or abnormalities in the ear canal or eardrum.

Air conduction audiometry

The patient is placed in a soundproof booth and wears a pair of headphones. Beeps of varying intensity and frequency are played into one ear at a time, and the patient responds when they can hear them. This tests the hearing threshold of the patient at each frequency, to determine the nature and severity of the patient’s hearing loss.

Bone conduction audiometry

Similar to the previous test, the patient is placed in a soundproof room, but this time wearing a headband with a pad on their mastoid bone (the bone behind your ear.) They then respond to any beeps they hear. This tests their hearing threshold, but tests it through bone conduction rather than conventional hearing. This can determine whether the patient’s hearing loss is conductive, sensorineural, or mixed.

Speech testing

The final soundproof booth test can be done in three different ways.

Speech reception threshold (SRT): The patient is asked to repeat words of varying loudness, presented to one ear at a time. This measures their speech threshold level in each ear.

Word recognition testing/speech discrimination testing: The patient is asked to repeat words presented to one ear at a time, while sometimes hearing white noise in the opposite ear. This test determines the patient's speech-processing ability, or the connection between what their ears hear and what their brain understands.

Speech-in-noise testing: The patient is asked to repeat sentences with varying degrees of background noise. This is used to determine their ability to process speech in the presence of external distractions.

These three procedures usually make up a basic hearing test, and are what you’ll need to undergo if your screening results indicate hearing loss.

Hearing test

The trio of air, bone, and speech testing is collectively referred to as an audiogram, and is conducted by the hearing specialist if they want to determine the patient’s candidacy for hearing aids.

Some more procedures include:

Tympanometry: A plastic probe is inserted into the ear canal to measure the canal’s volume and the eardrum’s response (i.e. whether or not it moves normally.)

Acoustic reflex testing/acoustic reflex decay testing: The same plastic probe used during tympanometry testing is inserted into the ear canal, and produces a loud beeping noise. This test conveys the status of the acoustic nerve using tracings interpreted by the audiologist.

Private vs NHS

While the kinds of hearing tests administered by the NHS and private practitioners are very similar, or even functionally identical, the lead up is slightly different.

With a private consultation, you can just book a test and go to it, possibly on the same day. An NHS consultation, however, will take a bit longer to organize. You’ll likely first have to see your GP, who can then direct you to the appropriate NHS hearing test site.

Overall

Hearing tests are a necessary and highly recommended step when it comes to your overall health. You should never ignore the importance of one of your five senses – neglecting to care for your ears can only mean further problems down the road.

To take your first step toward restoring your hearing loss, or preventing further damage to your ears, fill out our quick and free form. You can then be directed to a hearing specialist near you, who will be able to assess your hearing and instruct you on the best course of action.

Duncan Lambden

Duncan Lambden

Writer

Duncan is an Australian-born American-raised creative writer with a passion for healthy ears. He continues to build upon his audiology qualifications with research and various courses. Duncan has been working alongside Florida-based audiologist Lindsey Banks, Au.D., to make sure that Everyday Hearing has the most up-to-date content.

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