Hearing Tests: Types, Details, & Diagnosis

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

Self-diagnosing hearing loss is basically impossible. For instance, you can’t really put your ear up to a speaker and subjectively calculate what you hear. That means that if you want to understand what’s going on with your hearing, you need to take a test.

Now, before you begin sweating or fidgeting anxiously, it’s important to mention that most hearing tests are quite easy and require nothing more difficult than wearing a pair of fancy headphones.

But we get it, people don’t like tests. Tests in general are no fun for anyone of any age. You will be more relaxed and more ready if you take some time to get to know these tests. There’s virtually no test easier to take than a hearing test!

How is a hearing test performed?

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

Well, that’s somewhat misleading. Because it turns out there are a number of different hearing tests you may undergo. Each of them is made to assess something different or give you a specific result. Here are some of the hearing tests you’re likely to experience:

  • Pure-tone audiometry: This is the hearing test you’re likely most aware of. You wear some headphones and you listen for a sound. Hear a tone in your right ear? Put up your right hand. Hear the pitch in your left ear? Same thing! This will test how well you hear a variety of wavelengths at a variety of volumes. And if you have more profound hearing loss in one ear, this test will also determine that.
  • Speech audiometry: In some cases, you can hear tones very well, but hearing speech is still something of a challenge. That’s because speech is generally more complex! During a speech audiometry test, you’ll be led into a quiet room and will, again, be instructed to don some headphones. You will listen to speech at different volumes to determine the lowest volume you can hear words and clearly understand them.
  • Speech and Noise-in-Words Tests: Of course, real-world conversations almost never occur in a vacuum. The only actual difference between this test and the Speech audiometry test is that it is carried out in a noisy setting. This mimics real-world situations to help determine how your hearing is working in those situations.
  • Bone conduction testing: How well your inner ear is functioning will be established by this test. Two little sensors are placed, one on your forehead, and the other on your cochlea. A small device then receives sounds. This test assesses how well those sound vibrations travel through your inner ear. This test can often detect whether there is an obstruction in your ear (ex: if you’re unable to hear, but your inner ear is working perfectly there may be some kind of obstruction blocking the sounds).
  • Tympanometry: On occasion, we’ll want to test the overall health of your eardrum. This is accomplished using a test called tympanometry. Air will be gently blown into your ear so that we can measure how much movement your eardrum has. The results of this test can identify whether your eardrum has a hole, fluid behind your eardrum membrane, and more.
  • Acoustic Reflex Measures: During this test, a tiny device delivers sound to your ear and measures the muscle response of your inner ear. The reflexive reaction of the muscle movement of your inner ear will help us identify how well it’s functioning.
  • Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR): An ABR test attempts to measure how well the brain and inner ear are reacting to sound. To accomplish this test, a couple of electrodes are tactically placed on your skull. This test is entirely painless so don’t worry. It’s one of the reasons why ABR testing is used on people from grandparents to newborns!
  • Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Testing: This diagnostic is designed to measure how well your cochlea and inner ear are working. It does this by measuring the sound waves that echo back from your inner ear into your middle ear. This can determine whether your cochlea is working or, in some cases, if your ear is blocked.

What do the results of hearing tests tell us?

You most likely won’t need to get all of these hearing tests. Generally, your particular symptoms will determine which of these tests will be appropriate.

What do we look for in a hearing test? Well, in some cases the tests you take will uncover the underlying cause of your hearing loss. The hearing test you take can, in other instances, simply help us rule out other causes. Whatever hearing loss symptoms you’re noticing will ultimately be determined.

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

  • The best strategy for dealing with your hearing loss: Once we’ve determined the cause of your hearing loss, we’ll be able to more successfully provide treatment options.
  • Whether you are dealing with hearing loss or experiencing the symptoms related to hearing loss.
  • How serious your hearing loss is (or, if you’ve had multiple tests over the years, how your hearing loss might have progressed).
  • Whether your hearing loss is in a specific frequency range.

Is there any difference between a hearing screening and a hearing test? It’s sort of like the difference between a quiz and a test. A screening is rather superficial. A test is designed to supply usable data.

It’s best to get a hearing test as soon as possible

So as soon as you notice symptoms, you should schedule a hearing test. Don’t worry, this test isn’t going to be super stressful, and you don’t have to study. And the tests aren’t painful or invasive. We will provide you with all of the information about what to do and not to do before your hearing test.

It’s simple, just call and schedule an appointment.

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.