How Do Hearing Tests Work?

written by Becki Andrus
How Do Hearing Tests Work?

If your doctor suggests a hearing test, it doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong with your ears. Instead, these testing procedures measure hearing abilities and assist with early diagnosis if any issues are present.

The good news is that a hearing test is a painless and routine procedure. So there is nothing to worry about if your doctor is asking you to take a hearing test.

Purpose of a Hearing Test

Some people seek hearing tests because they notice signs that their hearing is declining. Other times, these hearing tests are routine exams – similar to getting an eye exam or annual physical from your primary care physician.

Not only does a hearing test identify hearing loss, but the testing also shows the doctor the severity of hearing loss.

Additionally, specific hearing tests can identify the type of hearing loss you are experiencing:

  • Sensorineural
  • Conductive
  • Mixed (both sensorineural and conductive)

This information is essential to identify the reason why your hearing is diminishing. Then the hearing team can put together the most effective treatment plan to amplify your hearing – and potentially slow the progression of any diseases causing hearing loss.

What to Expect During a Hearing Test?

What will happen when you visit the doctor for a hearing test?

This appointment begins by gathering health information, similar to the process you have been through with other medical providers. Be thorough in offering accurate information on the paperwork, so your hearing specialist has all applicable information to understand your health history.

Keep in mind that many different things can contribute to hearing loss. So even if the questions seem irrelevant, the details may help the doctor see if there are any genetic or family history factors that could be affecting your ears.

Questions on the initial paperwork might ask for information about:

  • Medical conditions, such as allergies, ear infections, or impacted earwax
  • Trauma to the head or ears
  • Noise exposure
  • Symptoms you are experiencing
  • Lifestyle, including work and hobbies

Once the health history is finished, the hearing specialist can move forward with the main portion of the hearing test.

What Happens in the Hearing Test Booth?

The reason you sit in a booth during the hearing test is that the sound-treated room blocks out other noises that could be interfering with your test. As a result, even small things like background conversations, an air conditioner, or office sounds could change the results of a hearing test.

You will sit in the booth wearing headphones that connect to an audiometer. Or, some hearing test booths have speakers to perform the test for patients who need to wear cochlear implants or hearing aids.

During the test, you will listen to speech and noises at different volumes. The sounds are played in one ear at a time. Then, the hearing specialist will ask you to repeat the words you are hearing.

Several methods can be used during the test to measure different parts of your hearing, such as:

  • Air Conduction Test
  • Bone Conduction Test
  • Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs)
  • Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)
  • Speech Testing

What is the Difference Between a Hearing Test and Hearing Screening?

Keep in mind that just because your hearing has been checked doesn’t necessarily mean that you had a full hearing test.

One of the most common examples is the hearing screenings that happen for students at school. These screenings provide a general check. Then the students are referred to complete a full hearing test if the screening results show a concern.

Here are a few differences between hearing screenings vs. hearing testing:

  • Hearing Screening: If you don’t have any hearing loss symptoms, the process will likely begin with a hearing screening. Screenings are less complicated and faster than testing. These are the routine checks that often happen in schools and workplaces.
  • Hearing Testing: An in-depth process to check hearing levels involves sitting in a sound-proof booth. As you go through the testing process, these results are measured on an audiogram. This process is commonly known as a comprehensive hearing exam.

Why Hearing Testing Matters

Catching hearing loss in the earliest stages is the best approach to help you maintain optimal hearing as long as possible.

Suppose you are experiencing any level of hearing loss. In that case, it’s possible that these issues could be affecting many parts of your life, including social interactions, work, learning/education, brain health, and more.

So, it’s essential to identify hearing issues in the earliest stages. Then, a hearing specialist can help with hearing aids or other treatments to restore your hearing if possible.

How to Know When You Need a Hearing Test

It doesn’t matter how old you are or whether your ears have been exposed to loud noises. Nevertheless, it’s wise to schedule a routine hearing exam – especially if you notice changes in your hearing.

Risk factors for hearing loss include:

  • Over the age of 60
  • Working in loud conditions, such as restaurants or construction
  • Other hearing loss symptoms, such as fatigue or inability to hear conversations
  • You have confirmed hearing loss, and regular checks are suggested

Hearing loss changes over time and is often a slow progression. If you know that you have hearing loss, your hearing specialist will recommend regular checkups to measure the changes.

Most adults who aren’t having problems with their hearing don’t need annual checkups. But it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment if any of the risk factors above apply to you.

The risk of hearing loss goes up with age. For example, only about 14% of the population between the ages of 45 – 60 have hearing loss. Over the age of 65, it increases to about 30% of the population with hearing loss.

The general recommendation is that adults should test their hearing every 10 years until the age of 50. Then, the guidance increases to hearing tests every 3 years after 50. If you have pre-diagnosed hearing loss or other ear problems, your doctor might recommend a hearing test more often.

Is It Time for a Hearing Test?

Have you noticed that you are having a hard time hearing in certain situations? Or, maybe it’s been a long time since your last hearing test. If you need to schedule a hearing test, our team offers the full-service solutions you need.

Schedule an appointment with an ENT at Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat if you live in the Collin County or Dallas area. You can choose to meet with a hearing specialist at our office in either Frisco or Plano, TX. We have a convenient online form for appointment requests, or you can call: (972) 596-4005.

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