(Last updated Oct 6, 2018)

What to Expect at a Hearing Test

Often hearing loss happens gradually, so the brain has enough time to adjust to your hearing changing. That’s why it can be difficult to identify the symptoms of hearing loss. It can sometimes take several years to realize that your hearing has changed and to finally decide to get a hearing test.

If you’ve decided to take a hearing test and are considering hearing aids, you’ve already taken a very important step, because you’ve acknowledged that your hearing might need some help. Now that you’ve decided, however, you might be wondering what to expect at a hearing test, especially if you haven’t had a hearing test before.

In this article we’re going to cover what to expect at a hearing test in some detail, such as how long it takes, what tests are involved and how much it costs.

If you’re worried your hearing test will be painful or uncomfortable in any way, you can relax already. There’s nothing painful or stressful in a hearing test. At most, you’ll have to focus intensely to hear soft sounds and words being played into your ears.

A full hearing test should last around an hour and should usually begin with a history check. Here the audiologist or hearing dispenser will ask you questions regarding your medical history and your symptoms. Some examples of questions asked could be: “Do your ears ever ring?” or “Does any of your family member have hearing loss?”

The audiologist might also ask you questions regarding your lifestyle, such as what kind of work you do, or whether you like doing sports outdoors. The idea with this survey is to get a comprehensive picture of your needs in order to recommend the best hearing aids for you, should it turn out that you need them.

Once the audiologist has all the information she needs, she can begin the the actual hearing evaluation, which should includes at least three different tests:

1. Otoscopy: the audiologist will inspect your ear canals and eardrums using an otoscope: a handheld tool with a light, a magnifying lens, and a funnel-shaped viewing piece with a narrow, pointed end. This will only take a few minutes.

2. Pure tone audiometry: this is probably the test that will take most of your time at the hearing clinic. It involves listening to a series of sound beeps through a headset while you’re seated in a soundproof booth. After you hear each sound, you’ll have to signal the audiologist that you’ve heard it by pressing a button or by raising your hand.

There are two types of pure tone audiometry tests: air and bone conduction testing. Air conduction testing is done with a regular headset, sound will travel through air into your ear canals. With a bone conduction testing, on the other hand, you’ll wear a bone conduction headset which will send sounds through the bones of your head. If this sounds alarming, do not worry. Air bone conduction isn’t painful or harmful in any way.

3. Speech discrimination: For this test, the audiologist will play words that you’d normally use in a conversation through the headphones. Then she will ask you to repeat them. At the end of the test you’ll get a score, which is related to the percentage of words that you have repeated correctly. If the pure tone audiometry detected hearing loss and you score high in the speech discrimination, this usually means that hearing aids can be effective.

Bear in mind though, that the score of this test does not tell you how successfully you understand speech in real life. Understanding words in a quiet clinic is very different from understanding a rapid-fire conversation in a loud restaurant. Real-life situations are much more challenging.

Finally, the cost. Any local hearing aid dispenser or audiologist should give you a free hearing test if you’re considering buying hearing aids.

Gianluca Trombetta Gianluca Trombetta Gianluca Trombetta is a hearing aid user and an expert in living well with hearing loss. He teaches hearing aid users how to maximize their communication abilities even in the most challenging situations at getsuperhumanhearing.com.

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