Hearing allows you to interact with others easily and prevents accidents. You can hear unfamiliar sounds and are responsive to alarms, horns, and warnings, hence preventing injury. Therefore, both children and adults should undergo a hearing test every year to identify and treat hearing loss early.
What is a Hearing Test?
A hearing test, also known as an audiogram, is an evaluation performed by an audiologist to determine your ability to listen to and recognize sounds of different pitches and volumes. Your audiologist plots your test results on a graph called a radiogram, which allows them to diagnose hearing loss, and determine the degree of hearing loss and its cause. The audiologist may also ask about your medical background and lifestyle.
A hearing test takes about 30 minutes, does not hurt at all, and you get the results instantly. It is also non-invasive, and there are no risks associated with the test. You also do not need to prepare for an audiogram; just show up and have the examination conducted by your audiologist. If you are taking your child for a hearing test, demonstrate what will happen, and practice staying still.
Why Get a Hearing Test?
An audiogram allows your audiologist to get a diagnosis and treat your hearing loss before it gets worse. It can also help uncover other underlying health issues such as anxiety and depression due to isolation, diabetes, and high blood pressure that could be the cause or result of the hearing loss. A hearing test can also reveal physical issues such as ear wax blockage that could be causing hearing loss.
Types of Hearing Test
There are several ways in which your audiologist can diagnose hearing loss depending on the individual’s age. They include:
The pure-tone test measures hearing sensitivity by indicating the softest sound you can hear during at least 50% of the testing time. The audiologist asks adults to wear headphones attached to a radiometer, while children have to listen to sounds inside a booth. You will hear sounds in different tones. As you respond, the audiologist will record the minimum volume you require to hear each tone.
Tests of the Middle Ear
Also known as tympanometry, this test evaluates changes in vibration in your middle ear and tympanic membrane in response to pressure. It helps diagnose a tear in the tympanic membrane, inner ear infection, or the presence of fluid in your middle year that may be causing hearing loss.
The audiologist will ensure that nothing is blocking your ear canal. He/she will then insert a device in your inner ear to cause vibrations on your tympanic membrane and record the differences in vibrations.
This test is only performed on adults who can stay still and bear having a device in their ear.
Speech testing involves assessing your ability to hear, comprehend and repeat words. It records the faintest volume you can hear and the correctness and loudness of how you repeat the words. This test can be performed on adults and children who can speak.
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs)
Otoacoustic Emissions are used to assess how the inner ear of a newborn responds to sound. The audiologist places rubber tips equipped with microphones and speakers into the baby’s outer ear canal. The baby will hear light sounds, and the computer will record echoes. If OAEs are inconsistent or absent, there may be a problem with the baby’s hearing.
Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)
ABR shows how the brain pathways and inner ear are working. The audiologist will stick electrodes to your head and ask you to wear earphones. As you listen to a sound, the electrodes transmit brain wave activity to a computer, and you see the results on a printout.
Tympanometry is used to determine whether there is earwax blockage, fluid buildup, tumors, or eardrum perforations. It is performed by observing how your eardrum moves in response to pressure.
Bone Conduction Testing
Bone conduction testing is performed when you have earwax blockage or fluid buildup. You will have a device behind your ear that causes gentle vibrations on your skull. The test evaluates how your inner ear responds to sound.
When Do You Need a Hearing Test?
Apart from periodic checkups, you should go for a hearing test if:
- People complain that you watch television or listen to the radio with the volume turned up too high.
- You find it difficult to hear and understand words during a phone call.
- You often ask people to repeat what they just said.
- You are often in a noisy environment.
- You find it hard to hear what someone is saying, especially when there is background noise.
- You are experiencing tinnitus.
- If people have commented that you speak so loudly.
Also, if you suspect that your child may be experiencing hearing loss, take them to an audiologist as soon as possible. If the condition persists, the baby may develop problems with communication and social skills.
Remember, you don’t have to experience disturbing symptoms to schedule a hearing test. When a diagnosis is given early enough, there are higher chances of treatment and recovery.