What to Expect at a Hearing Test

The purpose of a hearing test is to determine not only if you have a hearing loss, but also how mild or severe it is. A thorough hearing test can also help define the type of hearing loss you have whether it is conductive, sensorineural or mixed, and whether it will respond best to medical treatment or hearing aids.

Hearing History

When you visit our office, the first step will be to get to know your personal hearing health and medical history and find out what concerns you have. There are many potential causes of hearing loss, so a thorough history helps determine if you could have anything inherited or genetic in your family. Medical conditions like allergies, head colds, ear infections and even impacted earwax (cerumen) can also contribute to hearing loss. We will want to discuss the symptoms you are experiencing and how they are affecting your daily life. We will want to understand your lifestyle and the types of work, hobbies and social situations that are important to you. If you were exposed to loud noises or work in a noisy environment this could impact your hearing. After your hearing health history is complete, the hearing test can begin.

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Testing Your Hearing

Hearing tests are painless and non-invasive. Most occur in a quiet, sound-treated room (booth) or enclosure designed to keep out any other noises which might affect your hearing exam scores, such as the heater, air conditioner or office environment. You will be asked to wear headphones or soft earplugs with wires connected to an instrument called an audiometer that is used to conduct the test.

Once in the booth, our audiologist will communicate with you and provide instructions through your headphones. You will be asked to listen to tones at different pitches and volumes and push a button or raise your hand when you hear them. You will have to focus and listen carefully because you need to respond even if the tone sounds very soft and you can barely hear it. The test measures the very softest sounds you can hear at each frequency tested. This portion of the test is called pure tone audiometry.

Speech audiometry is another component of hearing tests. It uses recorded or live speech instead of pure tones. The speech portion of the exam evaluates the softest speech sounds or threshold you can hear and comprehend. You will then be asked to repeat back words that are presented at a level well above threshold to see how well you can understand them accurately. Some practitioners use speech sounds to determine your most comfortable listening level and the upper limits of comfort for listening.

If necessary, we may perform tympanometry and a test of your acoustic reflexes. For these tests, a soft plug that creates pressure changes and generates sounds will be placed in the ear. This will determine how well your eardrum is moving and will measure the reflexive responses of the middle ear muscles.

Understanding Your Test Results

Understanding Your Test Results

Test results are presented on a graph called an audiogram that displays the softest sounds you can hear at different pitches or frequencies. The vertical axis of an audiogram represents the intensity or volume of the sounds. The horizontal axis depicts the frequency or pitch of the sound.

Your results will be plotted in decibels of hearing threshold level (dB HL). These units are unique to hearing testing but are based on the perception of sound pressure levels across all frequencies. For each tone you heard during the test, there will be a mark on the audiogram at the appropriate decibel level. Each ear is plotted separately and represented by two different lines. The lines may be quite similar and follow the same pattern or they may be very different.


Hearing loss is measured in decibels (dB) and in the following categories:
  • Normal hearing (0 to 25 dB HL)
  • Mild hearing loss (26 to 40 dB HL)
  • Moderate hearing loss (41 to 70 dB HL)
  • Severe hearing loss (71 to 90 dB HL)
  • Profound hearing loss (greater than 91 dB HL)
1 in 6 adults have hearing loss

Treatment Options

If your hearing tests show the presence of a hearing loss, we will work with you to find the best solutions to treat your hearing loss. Having a clear understanding of your lifestyle needs in conjunction with the results of the audiogram will ensure that you will be fitted for a pair of hearing aids that will be personalized to meet your specific hearing needs.

To schedule a hearing test with us, contact our office today!

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