What is a hearing test?
A hearing test is an evaluation that measures the level of sensitivity in a person’s sense of hearing. It also helps to find out what kind of hearing loss a person is suffering. The test is performed by an audiologist using a device known as an audiometer. The audiometer helps the audiologist to determine how sensitive a person’s hearing is at different sound frequencies.
Why should you get a hearing test?
As you age, your hearing gradually deteriorates. This in turn affects other aspects in your life, depending on the age at which your hearing loss begins. Impaired hearing will limit your ability to learn, lead to social anxiety and may even cause an early onset of dementia. It is therefore important to have your hearing tested at some stages in life in order to keep these detrimental effects at bay. Early diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss can help prevent the following problems:
- Social awkwardness, isolation and depression
- Communication impairments
- Slow learning curves
- Career stagnation due to poor communication
- Strained relationships
When should you get your hearing tested?
Just like you normally go for eye checkups every year, your hearing should be checked regularly as well. Hearing loss occurs gradually and can easily get to advanced stages without getting noticed. According to the Association of Independent Hearing Healthcare Professionals (AIHHP), you should follow the following guidelines:
- 18 to 45 year olds should have their hearing tested every 5 years
- 45 to 60 year olds should have their hearing tested every 3 years
- 60+ year olds should have their hearing tested every 2 years
However, your healthcare provide might recommend a different schedule depending on your condition.
You should also get a hearing test in case you experience any of the following:
- You frequently ask others to repeat what they said.
- You frequently find the need to increase TV volume.
- You frequently miss comments when talking to someone on phone.
- People frequently tell you that you can’t hear.
- You frequently miss sounds like a ringing phone, microwave timers or the doorbell.
- Your family has a history of hearing loss.
- There is ringing in your ears.
Where can you get a hearing test?
There are several places where you can get a hearing test, including any ENT office or audiologist office near you. Some hearing aid wholesale stores also have centers where you can get a hearing test. Nowadays, you can also take an online hearing test from the comfort of your home.
What happens during a hearing test?
During the test, the ENT professional will you some questions about any symptoms you might be experiencing and then physically examine your ears using an otoscope to check whether there is anything wrong with your eardrums or ear canals. From there, the professional will perform the following tests:
Pure tone audiometry test: This tests the sensitivity of both ears. An audiometer is used to produce different pure tones at different volumes and frequencies. You use headphones to listen to the tones and respond by pressing a button.
Speech perception test: This tests your ability to hear and understand speech without any visual information. It helps find out if there are any problems with the auditory nerve or if there are any problems arising from the brain that make it difficult to understand speech.
Tympanometry: This tests if your eardrum allows all sound to pass into the middle ear by measuring eardrum movements and pressure behind the ear drum. It also helps the physician to tell if there is any fluid behind the ear drum.
What is an audiogram?
Once you complete your hearing test, your results are presented in an audiogram, which is a graph showing how you scored on the tests. It records a measurement of the sounds you were able to hear at different volumes and frequencies. It also shows a comparison of the levels of hearing sensitivity between both ears as well as the kind and severity of hearing loss you have. This information can then be used to determine the kind of treatment that is best suited to your condition.
An audiogram looks like this
The normal hearing threshold is around 20 decibels, which is marked by the red line on the graph. If the results of your hearing test appear above the red line, your hearing is okay. If they fall below the red line, then you have some form of hearing loss. The lower your graph goes the more severe the hearing loss.