5 Types of Hearing Tests
More than 48 million Americans have diagnosable hearing loss; according to the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, that’s roughly 15 percent of the American population. To diagnose hearing loss, an individual should schedule a visit with an audiologist.
Diagnosis occurs through hearing tests. There are five common tests audiologists use to diagnose a patient’s hearing loss. These tests include:
- Pure-tone test
- Speech test
- Middle ear test
- Auditory brainstem response
- Otoacoustic emissions
A pure-tone test determines what range of pitches an individual can hear. The test will pick out the faintest tones a person can hear at multiple pitches, or frequency. The test is not painful and shouldn’t cause anxiety for the patient.
During the test, the patient will wear headphones. A sound will be played through the headphones. Should the patient hear the sound, they will respond by raising a hand, pressing a button or saying, “yes.” Each ear will be tested individually in order to get the most accurate results.
During a speech test, the patient will be asked to listen to conversation in quiet and noisy environments. To determine an individual’s speech reception threshold, the audiologist will record word recognition or the ability to repeat words back.
Middle ear test
To determine how the middle ear is functioning, an audiologist will get measurements such as tympanometry, acoustic reflex measures and static acoustic measures. During a middle ear test, the audiologist pushes air pressure into the canal, causing the eardrum to vibrate back and forth. Acoustic reflex measures provide information regarding the location of the hearing issue. Acoustic reflex is the contraction of the middle ear when introduced to a loud sound. Testing for acoustic measure enables an audiologist to identify a perforated eardrum and check the opening of the ear’s ventilation tubes.
Auditory brainstem response
The auditory brainstem response test gives an audiologist data about the inner ear and brain pathways needed for hearing. During the test, electrodes are placed on the head to record brain wave activity.
Last but not least, otoacoustic emissions, or sounds given off by the inner ear when the cochlea is stimulated by sound, are measured to narrow down types of hearing loss. These emissions can be measured by inserting a small probe into the ear canal. The probe measures the sounds produced by the vibration of the outer hair cells, which occurs when the cochlea is stimulated.