Written by Annie Messmer, Doctor of Audiology.
Also known as the audiometric exam, the hearing test measures your ability to hear at different frequencies, as well as the ability to distinguish speech in quiet and often times in background noise as well. Unlike with declining vision, hearing loss
may not be perceptible. A person may not notice that they no longer hear intonations and pitch like they used to.
Before Your Visit
The more information you can provide your audiologist, the better they will be able to identify the right type of solution for you based on your level of hearing loss, lifestyle habits and amount of physical activity.
If you have had your hearing tested before and still have your audiogram or records of that visit, please bring them with you. Your audiologist is there to help you understand your hearing needs, remember to ask any questions you may have and to be honest about when and where you have the most trouble hearing.
Bring a Partner
It’s important to bring a close family member or friend along for your hearing test. Your hearing professional may ask them about specific situations where the hearing loss is more noticeable. The audiologist may also perform a test using the familiar voice of your loved one. It's a lot easier to believe you "don't have a hearing problem" if you don't have someone else there to provide some added perspective that you may not have noticed.
Your audiologist or hearing aid dispenser
will start by asking about your day-to-day experiences with sound, for example: When did you first notice a difference in your hearing? Which sounds are the most difficult to hear? What aspects of your daily life are most affected? Have you stopped certain activities due to hearing loss?
The conversation will likely cover whether you have a history of regular or periodic exposure to loud noises, as well as a discussion on how your friends, family, and colleagues at work may be affected by your hearing. The audiologist may also ask the person you brought with you a few questions regarding their experience with your ability to hear.
Be as thorough as you can, as this information will help your hearing specialist better evaluate your specific ability to hear, as well as to recommend solutions that fit your lifestyle and activities.
Audiometric Hearing Test
Next, your local hearing professional will examine your ears with an otoscope, a lighted tool that illuminates your ear canal. This is a standard and non-invasive procedure to check for signs of physical damage within the ear.
After an initial hearing screening, depending on your answers, the audiologist will determine if you require further testing and administer the audiometric test. You'll be asked to sit in a sound-treated booth and a series of tones will be delivered through headphones. You will likely be given a little button to press when you hear a sound or by raising your hand.
The audiologist will record the lowest volumes at which you hear specific sounds and will plot them on an audiogram. An audiogram is a graphical depiction of your hearing, highlighting the ranges where you have the most difficulty. You may be asked to repeat words you hear, to help assess word recognition, or how clearly you hear speech at a comfortable volume The audiologist may also administer an acoustic reflex test to measure the movement of the eardrum and muscle reflexes within the ear.
The results of your hearing test are displayed on what's referred to as an audiogram. After examining the audiogram, your hearing care professional will give you a better understanding of your specific type and degree of hearing loss. They will be able to identify the types of sound/frequency that need improvement and may suggest specific technologies to help you regain your ability to hear.
If you have any questions regarding hearing aids, be sure to ask your audiologist. For example, you may want to consider the following questions:
- Do I want my device to be completely invisible or just minimal visibility?
- What is the price I'm willing to pay vs. the cost of not treating my hearing loss?
- What amount of liquid protection does the hearing aid have?
- How can I link my personal devices to my hearing aids?
- What sound settings do the hearing aids have for different environments?
While it is entirely natural and common to lose some of our hearing ability, we don't have to live with the consequences of impaired hearing.
Today's technologies allow us to regain our hearing so we can more fully enjoy the times spent with friends and family, or while at work.About the AuthorAnnie L. Messmer, Au.D.
Dr. Annie Messmer is a certified audiologist with a degree from Northwestern University and over 10 years of experience working with patients of all ages. She has also trained numerous hearing care professionals on audiology best practices and the latest hearing technology.