Hearing aids are miracle workings, taking isolated, depressed individuals and throwing them, happily, into a world of sound, happiness and socializing. In order to be fitted or prescribed hearing aids, an individual who suspects they have hearing loss must make an appointment with an audiologist for a hearing loss exam.

This test can last between one and two hours and typically involves one to three types of testing to determine the type, degree and severity of hearing loss an individual has. Audiologists have a plethora of hearing tests available to provide the data they need to make a diagnosis. Such tests include:

  • Pure-tone testing
  • Speech testing
  • Otoacoustic Emissions
  • Tests of the middle ear
  • Auditory brainstem response

What is otoacoustic emissions testing or OAC testing?

OAC testing is a very common test performed by audiologists. The examine tests for OAC emissions, which are sounds emitted by the ear when the cochlea — or inner ear — is stimulated. As the cochlea is stimulated, the outer hair cells of the ear vibrate, to produce a very faint sound. These sounds are called emissions. People with normal hearing produce normal emissions. However, people who have hearing loss cannot produce these sounds, which indicates some degree of hearing loss. 

Although the test sounds incredibly scientific and odd, it’s actually a simple examination. During the test, a small and flexible probe, which includes a microphone, is inserted into the ear. The microphone is very powerful and can detect the OAC emissions.  Along with testing for OAC emissions, the test also detects potential blockage in the outer ear canal, any middle ear fluid and any damage to the outer hair cells in the cochlea.

OAC testing must be done in conjunction with additional hearing loss tests, as it can’t determine the type of hearing loss, such as conductive or sensorineural, an individual has.

The results of the test, in conjunction with results from other tests, will enable the audiologist to determine the type, degree and severity of hearing loss you suffer from. With this information, they can begin recommending hearing aids or other devices to enhance your hearing.

Schedule an appointment with an audiologist

Your audiologist will likely perform a number of hearing tests to determine if you have hearing loss, and if so, the severity of your condition. Feel free to discuss any concerns or questions you have with your audiologist about the process to feel more comfortable in their care.