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If you’re preparing for a hearing test, congratulations! You are taking the first step toward better hearing health – and improving your overall health and well-being. As with most medical consultations, you may be feeling some jitters, but there’s no reason to worry. Hearing tests are simple and painless, and you’ll have a comprehensive picture of your hearing abilities when you are done. Here, we’ll give you an overview of what to expect from a hearing test and provide a few tips for preparation.
Preparing for Your Hearing Test
Our hearing abilities are affected by many different factors. When you come in to meet us for your hearing test, we’ll ask questions about your personal and your family medical history, so gather any crucial information you have (medication, conditions, etc.). Let us know if you are on medication, have recently had a cold or ear infection, or were recently exposed to high volumes of noise. Think about your daily activities, employment, and hobbies. Take note of situations and locations where you struggle most with hearing. All of this information will become useful.
Consultation with Your Hearing Specialist
Your hearing specialist will run through questions as described above. The purpose of this conversation is to gather information that could help in understanding your hearing abilities and lifestyle. If a hearing loss is detected after the tests, this information will help guide us to the best hearing treatment to meet your specific needs.
After your conversation, your hearing specialist will examine your ears with an otoscope, an instrument that allows them to look inside your ear canal toward your eardrum. The physical examination helps your hearing specialist determine if there are any injuries to your eardrum, as well as any blockage within your ear canal (such as earwax). After this examination, your hearing specialist will ask you to remove your hearing aids and/or glasses for the next portions of the hearing test.
You’ll then be instructed to put on a pair of headphones and enter a sound booth for a complete battery of hearing tests. We use the latest technology that enables patients to evaluate their true ability to hear sounds by simulating real-life situations. Sometimes we will test across different tones and frequencies as well as utilize speech sounds in the presence of background noise. The following hearing tests, which take less than an hour, are non-invasive and painless, and administered one ear at a time:
- Pure tone audiometry: You will be given a pair of headphones through which sound will play. Your hearing specialist will be in the adjacent room controlling an audiometer, which sends a series of tones of varied pitch and loudness to your ears, one at a time. Your hearing specialist will raise the volume on each sound until you can hear it, at which point you will either raise your hand or push a button to indicate you have heard the sound. This test measures your hearing ability in terms of frequency (measured in hertz) and loudness (measured in decibels).
- Speech recognition/word recognition: Your hearing specialist will read a series of words at different volumes and ask you to repeat the words. Often times, this test includes a spondee test, which determines your ability to recognize multi-syllabic words. The speech and word recognition tests indicate your hearing ability and ability to understand in terms of normal conversation.
- Auditory brain stem response: When sound waves enter our ears, they are translated into signals sent to the brain to be processed as sound. This test determines whether or not you are experiencing sensorineural hearing loss, which relates to the malfunction of this hearing process. Your hearing specialist will attach electrodes to your head and neck area and send a series of clicking noises through headphones. Your hearing specialist will record your brain function from this test.
Reviewing Your Audiogram
Following these tests, your results will be recorded on an audiogram, a visualization of your hearing abilities (shown individually by ear). Your hearing specialist will explain your results and the next course of action based on the results. If a hearing loss is detected, your hearing specialist will assist you in determining the next steps to best treat your hearing. The most common treatment is the prescription of hearing aids. We will work with you to find a pair that best accommodates your hearing needs and your lifestyle.