First things first: congratulations! A hearing test is the first step to better hearing health. In the US, people wait an average of seven years from the time they first notice changes in their hearing to the time they decide to take a hearing test. Hearing specialists recommend that people over the age of 50 take an annual hearing test, the way we would eye exams or physicals.
As the date of your hearing test approaches, you may begin to feel nervous. We’re here to reassure you that a hearing test is simple, painless, and non-invasive, and best of all, quick!
Here’s what you can expect at your hearing test with us at Comprehensive Ear and Hearing.
Preparing for Your Hearing Test
Before you come in for your hearing test, take a few notes. Think about the environments in which you find it most difficult to hear. Is it a business meeting? Do you struggle to hear at a restaurant? Maybe it is difficult to hear when you’re sitting in a big group, with multiple speakers. If you have recently been exposed to extremely loud noise, be sure to take note. If you are currently taking medication, take down their names.
Consultation with Your Hearing Specialist
Before you take any hearing tests, you’ll meet with your hearing specialist at Comprehensive Ear and Hearing. You’ll discuss your own medical history, as well as your family’s. Your hearing specialist will ask if you are currently on any medication, if you’ve recently had a cold or ear infection, and if you were recently exposed to high volumes of noise. These factors may play a role in your hearing abilities.
Your hearing specialist will also ask about your job, daily life, and activities. Keep in mind that the more you share about your lifestyle with your hearing specialist, the more information they will have to assist you in treating your hearing needs.
The next step is the physical examination. Your hearing specialist will examine your ears with an otoscope (an instrument that allows them to look at your ear canals and eardrums). The physical examination allows your hearing specialist to determine whether there are injuries to your ears or eardrums. They will also identify if there is any blockage within your ear canal (such as earwax).
Hearing tests are designed to gauge your hearing abilities and your brain’s ability to receive sound. You will be asked to remove your eyeglass or hearing aids, if you wear them. Then, your hearing specialist will ask you to sit in a soundproof room to begin the series of hearing tests. Again, they are non-invasive and painless. Your ears will be tested one at a time.
Pure tone audiometry: You will be asked to wear a pair of headphones through which sound will play. Your hearing specialist will play a series of tones of varied pitch and volume to your ears. When you hear a tone, you’ll be asked to indicate that you’ve heard the sound. The pure tone audiometry test measures your hearing ability in terms of frequency (measured in hertz) and loudness (measured in decibels).
Speech recognition: Hearing loss affects our ability to recognize speech. It may sound like people are mumbling, or that while you can hear words, they are difficult to understand. In the speech recognition portion of the test, your hearing specialist will read a series of words at different volumes and ask you to repeat the words. This test is designed to gauge your ability to understand speech in normal conversation.
Auditory brain stem response: Sounds are recognized by our brains as neural signals sent by your inner ear hair cells. When this process falters, it is known as sensorineural hearing loss. The auditory brain stem response test determines whether your brain is registering sound, and whether you are experiencing sensorineural hearing loss. In this test, you’ll be asked to sit quietly while electrodes attached to your neck and head area record your brain response to a series of noises.
Reviewing Your Results
The results of your hearing test are recorded in an audiogram, a visual representation of your hearing abilities broken out by ear. The audiogram will indicate whether you are experiencing a hearing loss, and if so, what type of hearing loss you are experiencing, as well as the degree to which you experience it.
Your hearing specialist will explain your results and the next course of action based on the findings. These results are divided into normal hearing (no hearing loss), or varying degrees of hearing loss. With these results, your hearing specialist will assist you in determining the next steps to best treat your hearing.
If a hearing loss is found, the most common treatment is the prescription of hearing aids. Here at Comprehensive Ear and Hearing, we’ll work with you to find the best treatment to meet your personal needs.