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Understanding a Hearing Test

Hearing Exam

Are you curious about the state of your hearing?

Of course a hearing test is the gold standard by which your ability to hear a range of rounds is measured. But what exactly is the audiologist measuring, and what actually happens during the hearing exam? Let’s sound it out exactly so that you better understand the results.

Physical exam

No, this isn’t about doing bench presses or squat thrusts. Your hearing test starts in a logical manner when the audiologist looks into your ear canal with an otoscope.

This is to check for obvious blockages that could interfere with your ability to hear. Think of this like removing your ear plugs before listening to a conversation. If you have a buildup of natural ear wax in the canal, this can form a plug with muffles sound the same way an ear defender does.

Pure-tone audiometry

When it comes to pure-tone testing, the audiologist plays you a variety of noises, some high and low pitches, and of varying loudness, and you have to indicate when you’ve heard the noise. This allows the audiologist to draw up a map of your hearing.

That map highlights how loud noises of a certain pitch need to be for you to hear them. The shape of this graph tells the audiologist how good your hearing is, and exactly what types of sounds (their frequencies) you have most difficulty with.

Additionally, your audiologist may perform a bone conduction test. This test is pain-free and simply involves placing a vibrating tuning fork against your skull. Bone conduction tests help to identify any physical barriers that stop sound waves traveling from the outer and middle ear, into the sensitive inner ear.

Speech recognition tests

As well as technological information, the audiologist will perform a spoken word test. The audiologist repeats a variety of one and two syllable words to see how many you can clearly hear. Speech recognition tests help to identify any problem areas in conversation.

Actually, this raises a valid point because a hearing ‘test’ isn’t meant to imply an exam with right and wrong answers. So be honest about what you hear, so that the audiologist gets an accurate picture of your hearing landscape.

Other tests to expect

To round things off, expect the audiologist to check out the loudest sound that you can hear without discomfort. And also, a piece of equipment measures how much your eardrum moves to get a read on the health of your auditory system.

Your audiologist will go over your test results and offer any recommended treatments if needed. You’ll also have the chance to ask any remaining questions or discuss any additional concerns.