Hearing exams are an important part of your overall healthcare routine and should be administered by an audiologist annually. These exams are designed to identify whether you are hearing in a normal range. In the case of impairment, they can also identify the type, frequency, and severity of your hearing loss.
When it comes to hearing loss, early detection is the best way to ensure successful treatment. Newborn infants and toddlers are at risk for developmental delays when suffering from undiagnosed hearing loss, so widespread hearing screenings have become commonplace for this age group. Otherwise healthy adults benefit too, given the challenges in recognizing the early onset of hearing loss.
Hearing tests don’t come with any discomfort or risks, and they can typically be completed in just one appointment. They are a safe and effective means of measuring a patient’s hearing and can administered to infants, children, adults, and seniors.
Most people will be given a series of hearing tests, which may include any of the following:
Pure Tone Audiometry Hearing Tests
In this test, patients respond to a series of tones or words that vary in pitch and volume by raising a hand or pushing a button. The results are charted on an audiogram that pinpoints the frequencies you are not responding to correctly.
Speech Recognition Hearing Tests
Recognition tests measures how well you comprehend speech in normal conversational tones and settings. Patients are asked to repeat a series of words delivered at different volume levels, often beginning with a whisper. From this, the audiologist is able to identify the threshold at which you can successfully comprehend speech sounds.
Tuning Fork Hearing Test
A pronged metal instrument is placed behind the ear, on the top of your head, or over the forehead. When the tuning fork is struck, it vibrates and produces a tone. Depending on whether the sound is heard in just one ear or both ears equally and how long the sound lasts, your audiologist can assess whether your hearing is normal or impaired. It’s also a helpful test to assess whether hearing loss is conductive or sensorineural.
Auditory Brain Stem Response (ABR) Hearing Test
In this test, electrodes are attached to the scalp and earlobes, and the patient is given headphones through which clicking noises are delivered. The brain’s response to these stimuli is measured and recorded on a graph. The ABR is used to test specifically for sensorineural hearing loss.
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Hearing Tests
The OAE test is common for newborn hearing screenings. A microphone is placed near the baby’s ear canal, and sounds are delivered though a tiny probe in the baby’s ear. The microphone measures how the inner ear responds to these sounds.