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Are There Different Types of Hearing Tests?

Man Getting Ear Exam

The term hearing test is often used singularly, as if there is only one type of evaluation that a person can experience. However, there are actually a number of different hearing tests available, which audiologists can utilize in order to provide a thorough overview of an individual’s hearing. Here’s everything you need to know.

Pure-tone audiometry testing

  • The ‘classic’ hearing test offered by audiologists
  • The test utilizes air conduction in order to measure an individual’s ability to hear sounds at different pitches and volumes
  • A series of sounds are played through headphones; when the individual taking the tests hears a sound, they alert the audiologist – usually by pressing a button
  • The results of the test are then recorded on an audiogram and analyzed by the audiologist

Speech testing

  • A very common hearing test that most audiologists will utilize when testing an individual’s hearing
  • The test seeks to ascertain an individual’s ability to hear speech at low volumes, while also establishing their speech recognition threshold (SRT) – the faintest volume of speech that they can comprehend, 50 percent of the time
  • During the test, the audiologist will speak to the individual through the headphones
  • The individual undergoing the test will then be asked to repeat the words they can hear
  • The audiologist will record the lowest volume of speech that the individual can hear

Bone conduction testing

  • Bone conduction testing is designed to measure the inner ear’s response to sound stimuli and determine the type of hearing loss an individual may be experiencing
  • During the test, a conductor is placed by the individual’s ear
  • This conductor will then emit vibrations through the bone, directly to the inner ear
  • The results are then plotted on an audiogram

Tympanometry

  • This type of test uses air pressure to measure the movement of the eardrum
  • It is primarily used to ascertain if an individual is experiencing issues such as impacted earwax, a buildup of fluid, tumors or a perforated eardrum
  • During the test, a probe is inserted into the ear canal; the probe will change the air pressure in the canal and take measurements
  • The results of the test are then analyzed by the audiologist

Acoustic reflex testing

  • This test is designed to measure the muscle contractions of the middle ear, which can help to ascertain the exact location and the type, of hearing loss an individual is experiencing
  • The test is administered via a probe in the ear canal, which produces sounds to see if the muscles contract so as to decrease the volume of sound delivered to the inner ear
  • The muscle contraction should occur between 60 and 80 decibels; any higher – or if no contraction is recorded at all – then some or all, of the individual’s hearing loss, may be neurological in nature

Auditory brainstem response

  • This test is used to determine the type of hearing loss an individual is experiencing
  • During the test, electrodes are attached to the individual’s scalp and earlobes and headphones are worn
  • Different volumes and frequencies of sounds are then played through the headphones
  • The brain’s response to the sounds is then measured and analyzed

Otoacoustic emissions

  • This test is designed to measure the sounds generated by the hair cells of the cochlea
  • The purpose of the test is to check the health of the ear cells themselves and to rule in – or out – blockages in the ear canal or middle ear
  • A probe is inserted into the ear, which stimulates the cochlea
  • The response of the hair cells to this stimulation is then measured and analyzed

As you can see above, a hearing test is more of a blanket term for a variety of different evaluations that can be used to assess an individual’s hearing capabilities. If you are looking to obtain a hearing test, your audiologist will provide further advice as to which type of hearing test will be most suitable for your needs.


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