Some Of The Ways We Test Hearing Loss
Hearing tests are used to assess your ability to hear different sounds and to find out if there are any problems. It is important that hearing tests are carried out so that the right support and treatment can be provided.
Different tests are used to check how well the ears are working and their ability to detect different levels of sound. They are all painless. A graph called an audiogram records the results of some of the tests so that we can identify the type of hearing loss.
Whispered Speech Test
Your doctor may use this as a basic screening test by whispering words and asking if you can hear anything. While covering the opening of one ear with your finger, the health professional will stand behind you and whisper a series of words. You will be asked to repeat the words that you hear. If you cannot hear the words at a soft whisper the health professional will keep saying them more loudly until you can hear them. Each ear is tested separately.
Tuning Fork Test
Different tuning forks can test hearing at a variety of frequencies. They are metal, two-pronged devices, that produce a tone when they vibrate. These tests assess how well sound moves through your ear. Sometimes the tuning fork will be placed on your head or behind your ear. Depending on how you hear the sound your health professional can tell if there is a problem with the nerves themselves or with sound getting to nerves.
Pure Tone Audiometry
An audiometer produces sounds of different volumes and pitch (frequencies). During the test you are asked to indicate, usually by pushing a button, when you hear a sound in the headphones. The level at which a person cannot hear a sound of a certain frequency is known as their threshold.
Action on Hearing Loss offers these definitions of deafness:
People who have difficulty in following speech, particularly when it’s noisy. The quietest sound they can hear with their ‘better’ ear averages between 25 and 40 decibels.
People who have difficulty following speech without a hearing aid but are able to use an amplified telephone. The quietest sound they can hear with their ‘better’ ear is between 40 and 70 decibels.
The severely deaf need to rely on lip-reading, even when using a hearing aid. The quietest sounds they can hear in their ‘better’ ear are between 70 and 95 decibels. They may prefer to use sign language.
Those who are profoundly deaf rely on lip-reading and may use sign language. The quietest sounds they can hear in their ‘better’ ear average 95 decibels or more. Profoundly deaf people, who cannot hear sounds quieter than 95dB, often communicate using sign language and lip reading. However, cochlear implants or hearing aids can now provide an alternative, allowing oral communication.
If a sensorineural cause is suspected tests can be performed to pinpoint where the problem lies.
Otoacoustic emissions: This measures the responses the cochlear makes to sounds produced by a probe placed in the outer ear.
Auditory brainstem response: This measures the activity of the cochlear, auditory nerve and brain when a sound is heard.
None of these hearing tests is uncomfortable.
Other hearing tests
If the cause of the hearing loss seems to be due to a brain abnormality, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the head may be recommended.