If you suspect you suffer from hearing loss, you should consult with your physician and see an audiologist. An audiologist is a highly trained professional who can best evaluate your current situation, implement rehabilitation, and make appropriate referrals. The typical first step in this process is a hearing test that evaluates your ability to hear by measuring the ability of sound to reach the brain.
Your hearing test begins from the moment you contact the audiologist. Your medical background and other personal information are reviewed to discover the specific environments and social settings that highlight or exacerbate your hearing loss.
The physical and anatomical ear environment is examined using an otoscope. This device can peer inside the ear canal and identify any possible obstructions affecting hearing. Common buildup of earwax can lead to temporary hearing loss. In some cases, a video otoscope is used to allow you to view the inside of your ear!
Additional testing is performed as necessary. There are a variety of tests that can be used. Some common ones include:
Pure tone audiometry
Pure tone audiometry uses a machine called an audiometer to play a series of tones through head phones. The tones vary in pitch (frequency, measured in hertz) and loudness (intensity, measured in decibels). The volume of a tone is reduced until you can no longer hear it. Then the tone will get louder until you can hear it again. Each ear is tested separately and the results are recorded.
Tuning fork tests
This test assesses how well sound travels in the air. Hitting a tuning fork and placing it different areas of the head and ear can help an audiologist determine if there is an issue with the nerves themselves or with sound getting to the nerves.
Speech reception and word recognition tests
Speech reception and word recognition tests measure your ability to hear and understand normal conversation. Simple words are spoken with different degrees of loudness and results are measured to determine at what levels you can hear and repeat familiar two-syllable words.
Whispered speech test
This simple test asks you to cover the opening of one ear with your finger. Words are then whispered to you from a short distance behind you. You repeat the words that you hear. If you cannot hear the words at a soft whisper, the audiologist keeps saying the words more loudly until you can hear them. Each ear is tested separately.
The results of your tests are used to determine the type of loss. Some test results are recorded on a form called an audiogram. The audiogram reflects your hearing loss in frequencies and decibels. Any loss and how it affects your hearing will be fully explored and explained. The hearing test is the first step in improving your hearing. Once hearing loss is identified, then the most appropriate treatments can be developed and applied.
Your hearing test is designed to determine what you have been missing, but it’s the first step towards recovering those lost sounds and improving the quality of your life.