You made the first step to managing your hearing issues by getting a hearing test from a qualified audiologist, but now what? What kind of data can you expect to acquire with this test and what does it mean for your hearing future? These are reasonable questions because hearing tests are meant to go beyond the traditional an ear exam. The purpose of a hearing test is to gauge how well sound reaches the brain.
Hearing tests are performed by a specialist to provide a thorough evaluation of your hearing, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. That’s important information for both you and your ear doctor to have but what exactly can you expect to learn from the hearing test?
How Hearing Tests Work
That’s the first question you should ask the audiologist when you sit down for the test to really appreciate the importance of this data. A sound is really a vibration in the air that travels in waves. Measures are taken of these vibrations to determine the specific frequency (pitch) and height or amplitude (volume).
Hearing loss, especially when it is part of aging, rarely means you just stop hearing everything all at once. Instead, most people hear little bits and pieces of sound based on these two factors: frequency and amplitude. When hearing starts to fade, it’s common to hear some voices better than others. This is because that voice falls into a range of frequency and amplitude that your ears can still hear.
Hearing tests introduce sounds at different levels to see what you can and can’t hear. In most cases, you are asked to sit in a soundproof booth with headphones on and acknowledge when you hear a sound. The audiologist gets a record of what frequency and amplitude you hear in each ear to measure your specific level of hearing loss.
A comprehensive hearing test measures:
- Pure tone audiometry – Tonal hearing
- Hearing in Noise – Hearing in both quiet and noisy environments
- Speech reception and word recognition
In some cases, the audiologist tests the actual structures of the ear, too. For instance, a tympanogram will measure how well the eardrum and middle ear works. An auditory brain stem response tests the brain’s reaction to sound. All this gives the specialist a well-rounded metric of your hearing ability and where it fails.
What You’ll Understand After the Hearing Test
The basic hearing test allows the audiologist to make a map of your hearing, referred to as an audiogram, using frequency and aptitude to plot it. The purpose is to define each individual’s hearing loss and then figure out how best to accommodate it. The hearing specialist takes that audiogram and then uses a formula to create a single number from it that summarizes your hearing loss in a concise manner. Using this single measure, they determine your degree of hearing loss. For example:
- Under 25dB – No hearing loss
- Between 56 – 70 dB – Moderate to severe with difficulty understanding some speech and with group conversations
- Over 91 dB is considered profound hearing loss
With this data in hand, you are able to choices that will affect not only your hearing health but your quality of life, as well. A person with moderate to severe hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids, for instance. The data obtained via a hearing test also helps a certified hearing aid retailer create a strategy when fitting you for hearing aids. The technician can get a feel for what features might best suit your needs like direction microphones and noise filtering.
Most people can benefit from a hearing test even if they are not experiencing hearing loss. The test serves as a baseline to measure changes to your hearing over the years.