What Happens During a Hearing Test?

Hearing is one of our primary senses, providing us with the ability to learn about our surroundings, understand language, communicate with others, and so much more. Thus, a loss of hearing can dramatically impact one’s emotional life, social life, and even their career. Considering the risks hearing loss presents to your life, you can’t deny the importance of an annual hearing test. By assessing your hearing regularly, you can detect changes early and seek out effective treatment options. Keep reading to learn more about the importance of hearing tests, the types of exams available, and what happens during a hearing test.

What Is a Hearing Test?

An audiometric test (also known as a hearing test) is part of a broader ear exam that measures the ability of sound to reach your brain. The sounds that you hear begin as vibrations from air, liquid, and solid materials around you. These vibrations create sound waves that vibrate at certain frequencies and have specific amplitudes, creating different sounds. The frequency of a sound wave determines the pitch, and the amplitude determines the volume. These sound waves travel through your ear and turn into nerve impulses that the brain receives, allowing you to hear the sound. A hearing test measures how well your brain receives sounds through the ear canal and the skull to determine the type of hearing loss that you have.

What Happens During a Hearing Test?

To undergo a hearing test, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist known as an audiologist. After asking questions related to your hearing, the audiologist will conduct a visual examination of your ears using an otoscope. This can help the audiologist identify the cause of your hearing loss, as it could be related to excessive earwax buildup or an issue with your eardrum or ear canal.

Next, the hearing test will take place. You may be surprised to learn what happens during a hearing test, because it actually involves several different tests. These examinations help detect the variety of sounds that you can hear (or not hear). You are never at risk for complications during a hearing test, and discomfort is very rare. Most of the tests require that you respond to words or tones, but some require no response at all. What happens during a hearing test depends on the types of exams the doctor or nurse performs. Below you will find a list of possible hearing tests and an overview of what happens during each test.

Types of Hearing Tests

Auditory Brainstem Response Test – Also referred to as brainstem auditory evoked potential (BAEP) or brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER) testing, this exam detects hearing loss from inner ear problems. It involves the placement of electrodes on your scalp and earlobes, and you will also be asked to wear earphones. As the doctor sends clicking noises through the earphones, the electrodes will monitor how your brain responds to the sounds and a computer will record those responses on a graph.

Tympanometry – To evaluate both the condition of the middle ear and the mobility of the eardrum and conduction bones, audiologists use tympanometry. Although not technically a hearing test, this examination measures the energy transmission of the middle ear. Your audiologist will create variations of air pressure in your ear canal and then measure your eardrum’s response.

Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Test – Doctors commonly use this hearing test to check for hearing issues in newborns, but the exam doesn’t distinguish between outer and inner ear issues. During the test, an audiologist inserts a small, soft microphone into the ear canal. A flexible probe introduces sound, and the microphone detects the response of the inner ear to the sound.

Pure Tone Audiometry Test – This is a key hearing test used to detect hearing threshold levels as well as the configuration, degree, and type of the hearing loss. During the test, you wear headphones connected to an audiometer that plays a series of tones. Your doctor will control the volume, lowering it until you can’t hear the sound anymore. Then, the physician will increase the volume until you hear it again. You will indicate that you can hear the sound by pressing a button or raising your hand. This process will be repeated several times, adjusting the pitch of the tone and switching between ears.

Your audiologist may combine a pure tone audiometry test with a bone conduction test, during which a device sends tiny vibrations to the inner ear. The results give another demonstration of your hearing threshold.

Speech Reception and Word Recognition Test – With this exam, your doctor will measure how well you hear and understand language. You will hear a series of simple words at different volume levels and repeat the ones you hear. A spondee threshold test, in which you need to repeat at least half of the two-syllable words, is an example of such a test.

Tuning Fork Test – Some audiologists use a tuning fork to assess the ability of sound to move through your ears. This is a metal device with two prongs that creates a tone as it vibrates. The tuning fork may be placed behind your ear or on your head during the test. Your doctor can tell whether there’s an issue with sound getting to your nerves or the nerves themselves based on how you hear the tone.

Contact an Audiologist for Help

Have you been experiencing hearing loss? If you live near Limon, Pueblo, or Colorado Springs, Colorado, contact Apex Audiology today. Dr. William F. Herholtz can conduct a simple hearing test, increase your understanding of your hearing loss, and offer solutions for treatment. To get started, please call us at 719-247-9000 or schedule an appointment online. We would be happy to address any further concerns you have regarding the question, “What happens during a hearing test?”

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