Hearing tests: what to know before you go

Have an inkling your hearing isn’t what it used to be? Booking a hearing test can help you determine just where the problem lies, and what can be done about it. What you might not know is that a hearing test can actually comprise of a number of different examinations. When taken together, the results can provide a thorough evaluation of your level of hearing.

To help make the process a little less daunting, here’s a rundown of exactly what to expect when you get your hearing checked.

The initial test - your first step to better hearing
Your first step in seeking treatment for hearing loss is to book a free hearing test at your local National Hearing Care clinic. Upon arriving for your appointment, the process is simple and only takes about 15 minutes.

Getting to know you
Your ears are your ears. That’s why a trained staff member will kick things off with questions related to your hearing. Have you noticed any changes in your hearing? Is there a history of hearing loss in your family? Are there certain situations where hearing is especially hard? The answers to these questions help to ensure you receive the best possible care.

• Ear examination
Before testing your hearing, a trained staff member will use a lighted instrument called an otoscope to examine the ears themselves. They will check for airflow through the ear, and identify any problems in the ear canal or with the eardrum.

• The hearing test
You will then be set up in a quiet screening room to begin the hearing test. You’ll be played a series of sounds at four different frequencies through a pair of headphones. You simply have to press a button or raise your hand each time you hear a sound. The outcome of this initial test will determine whether you have a hearing loss or not. If you do, a more comprehensive test with an Audiologist or Audiometrist will be recommended.

The comprehensive evaluation - understanding the cause to determine the treatment
While the initial hearing test can tell you whether or not you are losing your hearing, the comprehensive hearing test with an Audiologist or Audiometrist will provide insight into why. The process is once again very straightforward, and will take approximately one hour.

• Medical history
Before getting started with the comprehensive hearing test, a trained staff member will take your medical history and discuss any changes you’ve noticed in your hearing, and any concerns you might have.

• A look inside the ear canal
Next, your ear canal will be checked for common problems such as a build up of wax, damage to the eardrum, or any other condition that makes it difficult for you to hear clearly.

• Hearing evaluation
You’ll then move into a quiet, sound-treated room or booth to check your hearing. You’ll put on a pair of headphones to undergo a pure tone test, where a machine called an audiometer emits beeps and whistles (pure tones) at a greater range of volumes and frequencies than experienced during your initial test. Again, you’ll be asked to press a button or raise your hand when you can hear the sounds. This test measures the softest tone you can hear at each frequency.

• Bone conduction test
In some instances, you’ll also undergo a bone conduction test. A bone conductor is a vibrator held against the mastoid bone (located behind the ear) to reveal any problems in the middle ear cavity.

• Speech test
A speech test, or speech audiometry, is used to measure how well you hear and understand ordinary conversation. It’s similar to the pure tone test, except you’ll be listening to recorded words spoken at different volumes and then repeating what you hear. This test establishes the softest speech sounds (threshold) you can hear and understand.

• Tympanometry
If tympanometry is required, a probe with a flexible rubber tip will be placed in your ear. The probe acts as a soft plug, creating pressure changes to determine how well your eardrum is moving.

• Audiogram
The results of your hearing tests will be charted on a graph called an audiogram. Each ear is plotted separately, displaying the softest sounds you can hear at different frequencies. The audiogram will show the degree of your hearing loss and provide the hearing healthcare professional with clues to its origin.

If the results of your comprehensive hearing test confirm hearing loss that could benefit from a hearing aid, your Audiologist or Audiometrist will discuss suitable technology and style options with you.

To find out more about your hearing health, book a free hearing test. You can also take this quick, easy online hearing test.

NHC blog is our place to explore ideas and themes of interest. For professional audiology advice, please contact your local clinic for a consultation.