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What does a hearing test involve?
What to expect when you’re sound testing?
Are you thinking about booking a hearing test, but you’ve been putting it off? Perhaps a loved one has suggested to you that you might want to visit an audiologist because they’ve noticed that you’ve been asking them to repeat things a lot lately. Or perhaps you suspect you may have some premature hearing loss as a result of damage or natural hearing loss as a result of ageing. And maybe you’ve been putting off going for the test because you’re worried about what’s involved, or worried about what they’ll say. Whatever your reason for requiring a hearing test, and whatever your reasons for stalling, there’s no reason to put it off any longer.
Getting your hearing tested is easy, painless and nothing to worry about.
Once you’ve booked
So you’ve finally booked a hearing test, but what now? Well, once you’ve made your way to the audiologist, you’ll generally be given a form to fill out to help the process along. This form will ask you to answer a series of yes/no questions such as ‘Do you think you have hearing loss?’, ‘Do you think one ear is better than the other?’ and other details which will all help the audiologist know what your needs and concerns may be.
Once you’ve filled out this very short but important survey, you may be asked a few further questions and then you’ll be ready for the hearing test.
Now that the audiologist knows where you’re at in terms of your hearing loss, and your desire to seek treatment, they will have a sufficient guide to start testing your hearing.
The beep test
The first test is usually the ‘beep test’, also known as pure tone audiometry. PTA is the key test used to identify your hearing threshold and to determine the degree and type of hearing loss. This test is the primary tool used in the diagnosis that provides the basis for management of hearing loss. In this test you will be given a set of squishy foam ear buds, which once inserted into the ears will block most other sounds. A series of tones at selected frequencies and volumes from low to high will then be emitted at irregular intervals, into one ear and then the other. You will indicate if you can hear the tone by clicking a button whenever you do hear any noise, no matter how faint. These results are recorded in the form of an audiogram chart that illustrates the range of hearing or hearing loss across the scale of decibels and hertz.
This test is far less ominous than it sounds. The bone conduction test, or interaural attenuation, is simply a matter of placing a set of conductors against the side of your head behind your ear, while your soft ear buds sit comfortably inside your ears to block out external sounds. The conductors then send vibrations through the bone straight to the cochlea. This test is used to determine the amount of signal loss during crossover between the two cochleas as the sound bounces around off the inside of the skull. It may seem a little unnerving in description, and it certainly can feel a tiny bit disorienting as the noise vibrates inside your head, but it doesn’t last long and it’s quite fascinating.
The next text is called speech discrimination, and it tests how well you understand words at various volumes. With your headphones still in, you will be given a series of random words like “Hen, Bath, Rook, Bomb” etc and asked to repeat what you hear one at a time to determine if you have any difficultly understanding certain sounds, and at which volumes.
Lastly, after the foam ear buds have come out there is one final test. In this ‘pressure test’ another little ear bud is placed in the ear canal and a tiny, minuscule really, amount of air gently fills the ear canal to see how the tympanic membrane, aka the eardrum, responds to variations in air pressure. The pressure is barely perceptible, and helps the audiologist know the condition of your middle ear, the mobility of the eardrum. The test can detect the presence of fluid or wax in the eardrum, which may be blocking your hearing, or any perforations of the membrane, which could be hampering your hearing.
Once these tests have concluded, you’ll have a very accurate idea of the level of your current hearing and whether you have any hearing loss that needs to be managed.
After your tests, the audiologist will talk you through what your next steps are. You may need to be fitted for a hearing device of some kind, and there’s no time like the present to make that decision and book that fitting. Remember, the longer you leave it, the worse your hearing loss will get and the greater will be the chances of developing any further social and psychological problems associated with hearing loss.
So, now that you know what to expect, what are you waiting for? If you know someone who needs a hearing test, or if you yourself need to get your hearing checked, don’t delay any further. It’s quick and easy and could change your life for the better.