Are you concerned about the possibility of hearing loss? If you are reading this article, the answer is probably, “yes.” It doesn’t matter if it is your own hearing loss or the hearing loss of a family member or loved one that concerns you. If you think there is a possibility of hearing loss, the first step is to have an evaluation. This can be done with hearing screenings and hearing tests. Both are easy, painless, and non-invasive ways to evaluate hearing loss. Generally, the first step is a hearing screening.

The hearing screening

Hearing screenings can be performed at any age. In fact, most all infants have a hearing screening at birth, before they are released from the hospital. The type of hearing screening used depends on the age of the person to be screened. Screenings are a “pass” and “fail” type of test. Pass means no hearing loss is found to be present. Failing this test means you should see an audiologist for more extensive hearing tests.

  • Infants: Infants and newborns are screened for soon after birth. Auditory brainstem response (ABR) testing and otoacoustic emissions (OAE) testing are the procedures used, as these do not require a response.
  • Young children: Children too young to respond verbally are screened using visual reinforcement audiometry or conditioned play audiometry.
  • Older children: Older children are usually screened in their pediatrician’s office or at their school using a pure-tone test. This test requires a response from the child so they must be able to follow directions.
  • Adults: Hearing loss in adults is often screened at community health fairs and as part of a yearly well visit at the doctor’s office. The pure-tone test is the test most commonly used.

Hearing tests

A hearing test is more than a screening and refers to a comprehensive hearing evaluation by a certified audiologist. The tests performed by the audiologist will determine if hearing loss is present, the type of hearing loss and the severity. The audiologist can recommend treatment options as a result of the evaluation.

So what different hearing tests are there?

  • Physical exam: The hearing test starts with an examination of your ears. They will use an otoscope to check your ears for any obstructions or problems with your ear structures that could cause hearing loss.
  • Pure-tone testing: Pure tone testing like that used during a hearing screening will be performed and the results recorded on an audiogram. 
  • Speech reception threshold: This test is used to confirm a pure tone test. The audiologist will determine the faintest level of speech you can hear half of the time. This test may be performed in quiet and again with background noise.
  • Acoustic reflex measure: This measures the function of the middle ear. It evaluates the level of sound at which a muscle in the middle ear contracts in response to noise.
  • Tympanometry: This middle ear test may be performed if there is a history of ear infections. A small puff of air is moved into the ear canal to make the eardrum vibrate. It detects conditions like fluid in the ear, wax build-up, a perforation in the eardrum or an eardrum that moves too much or too little. 

The good news is hearing screenings and tests are non-invasive and painless. If you suspect that you or someone you love is experiencing hearing loss, make an appointment with an audiologist today.