Different Types of Hearing Tests
There are a range of different hearing tests and diagnostic procedures that your audiologist can use to measure your hearing loss and pinpoint its precise cause. Which tests apply to you will depend on the severity and type of hearing loss you are experiencing, combined with other factors such as age, medical history and hearing history. Here are some details regarding possible tests and procedures:
• Pure tone audiometry (PTA): This is a standard test, designed to measure your hearing range in each ear. You can certainly expect this test at your first appointment; it is the first port of call for identifying the presence and extent of your hearing difficulties. You will be seated in a sound proof room and asked to wear headphones. The test operator will channel sounds of different pitches and volumes into each ear using a machine called an audiometer. You will be asked to signal to the operator every time you hear a sound, usually by pressing a button or raising your hand.
• Speech perception: This test measures your ability to understand speech without visual cues. It will involve you identifying or repeating words as you hear them, the words may be spoken by the operator or pre-recorded and played through headphones.
• Tympanometry: A healthy eardrum will allow sound to pass through it unimpeded. This test is designed to determine how well your eardrum is functioning. It will detect problems such as fluid behind the eardrum, perforated eardrum and abnormal movement of the eardrum. Tympanometry involves plugging the ear and slowly increasing the air pressure in the ear canal in order to measure the response of the eardrum.
• Tuning fork test: A tuning fork is a metal, fork-shaped instrument that emits sound waves when tapped lightly. The tuning fork test involves placing the vibrating fork against your head in various places. It helps to determine whether sound is passing though the inner and middle ear normally. Abnormalities could indicate conductive hearing loss.
• Bone conduction test: This test is a slightly more specific version of the tuning fork test, it involves gently placing a vibrating tuning fork against the bone behind your ear. This allows the sound waves to bypass the outer and middle ear. It helps your audiologist to determine if there are any problems with your inner ear or auditory nerves that could indicate sensorineural hearing loss.
• Auditory brainstem response (ABR): This test is much less common; it is usually only conducted if your audiologist suspects that your hearing loss could be caused by a problem with your auditory nerves, or a neurological disorder. It involves electrodes being placed around the head, which then measure the brain’s response to various auditory stimuli.