Hearing health is an important part of your physical and mental wellbeing, and having regular hearing exams throughout your lifetime is important for people of any age. Hearing exams are often the only way to identify a developing hearing impairment; hearing loss usually comes on gradually and unexpectedly.
Diagnosing a hearing problem early in its development is the best way to ensure successful treatment.
Comprehensive hearing exams are fast, simple and painless. They are comprised of a series of hearing tests that help your audiologist determine if your hearing is normal or impaired. If hearing loss is identified during the evaluation, these tests can also tell your physician what type of hearing loss you have, its severity, its frequency and whether it affects one or both ears.
Common Hearing Exams
Patients can expect to undergo several different hearing tests during the course of their hearing exam. Here is a look at some of the most commonly administered hearing tests at Hearing and Balance Center:
- Audiometry Test
- Purpose: Identify tones at different volumes and pitches delivered to one or both ears through headphones
- Results indicate: Severity, pitch and type of hearing loss in each ear; used to identify if hearing loss is in one or both ears
- Tuning Fork Test
- Purpose: Identify tonal vibrations delivered to one of both sides of the head by a pronged metal instrument placed on the head
- Results indicate: Type of hearing loss; offers overall assessment of how sound travels through each ear
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Test
- Purpose: Listen to series of clicking noises delivered through headphones while electrodes attached to the head and earlobes record brainwave activity
- Results indicate: Type of hearing loss; commonly used for infants and children
- Word Recognition Test
- Purpose: Repeat words and phrases delivered at normal conversation volume in varying levels of background noise
- Results indicate: Speech identification and understanding; helps determine if hearing aids will provide effective treatment
Along with these tests, your physician may perform tympanometry, acoustic reflex, otoacoustic emissions (OAE) and other tests.
Patients of all ages should have hearing exams every few years, and patients over the age of 50 should be tested annually or biennially. These tests typically take 30–60 minutes and are performed by an audiologist. Your results will be clearly explained and charted on an audiogram when your hearing exam is complete. If they indicate hearing loss, your audiologist will determine the best treatment options for your individual hearing and personal needs.