6 Types of Hearing Tests

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Ear Examination

Are you scheduled for a hearing test? Don’t worry — you’re not going to have to study for the test. Hearing tests, which are often performed by hearing healthcare providers to determine whether or not a person has hearing loss, are simple procedures that enable a hearing healthcare professional to determine the type and degree of someone’s hearing loss.

As mentioned, hearing tests are easy and pain-free. Usually, a hearing health professional will perform hearing tests in a hearing lab or office suite, but they can also be done by a primary care physician, in the workplace or by a school nurse, a psychologist, speech therapist or audiometric technician.

Types of hearing tests

The healthcare professionals performing hearing tests have an arsenal of tests to choose from. Types of tests include:

  • Whispered speech test: During a whispered speech test, a health professional asks a patient to cover the opening of one ear with a finger. Then, standing about one foot behind the patient, the healthcare professional will whisper a series of words. Patients will be asked to repeat the words they can hear. If the patient can’t hear anything, the healthcare professional will continue to repeat the words at louder volumes until the patient can accurately repeat the word back.
  • Otoacoustic emissions (OAC) testing: It’s not often that adults undergo OAC testing, as this test is often performed during a newborn screening to determine any potential hearing loss. During the test, a small microphone is placed in the ear canal. The microphone plays a sound and detects the inner ear’s response to the sound.
  • Tuning fork tests: A tuning fork is a metal, two-pronged device that emits a tone when it vibrates. During this test, a hearing healthcare professional will strike the fork to produce a tone. The fork is placed behind the ear. The test is performed to determine how well sound moves through the ear.
  • Pure-tone audiometry: This sophisticated (but still easy) test uses an audiometer to play a series of tones and different pitches and loudness through a pair of headphones. The hearing healthcare professional will control the volume of the tones. During the test, the patient will respond to each tone by raising his or her hand or by pushing a button. Each ear will be tested separately.
  • Speech reception/word recognition tests: Like, the whispered speech test, these tests measure how well an individual can hear and understand normal speech. Additionally, much like the audiometric test, an individual will be asked to respond to sounds — this time speech — relayed in different volumes.
  • Auditory brainstem response (ABR) testing: This test sounds scarier than it is; during ABR testing, electrodes are placed on the scalp and each earlobe. The patient wears earphones through which noises are sent. The electrodes track the brains’ response to the clicking noises and record those responses.

When you schedule an appointment with a hearing care practitioner in your area, they will discuss with you which tests they will perform and what the results are. From there, they will recommend the best treatment for your particular needs and wants.