If you’ve decided to get a hearing test, congratulations! Getting a hearing test is the first step to determining whether you have hearing loss, what type you have, and to what degree. There is increasing evidence that a high rate of age-related hearing loss can be a harbinger of immediately life-threatening health risks such as heart disease, so keeping tabs on your hearing ability is a good thing not only for your hearing health and the risks associated with hearing loss, but as a “canary in the coal mine” of the rest of your body’s systems as well.
The Better Hearing Institute, a non-profit organization, recommends getting a hearing test once a decade until age 50, and every three years after that. When you’re heading in for a hearing test, it’s a good idea to be prepared with some idea of what to expect when you get there. None of it is painful or difficult, but there are some questions you might want to think about before you get there.
Let’s go over the typical steps involved in a hearing test so you can be ready when you arrive.
The first step of the hearing test is a consultation with your audiologist. The doctor will ask you questions about your medical history, both hearing-related and otherwise. They’ll also ask questions about your family’s medical history, so you may want to look that up or go over it with a family member.
They’ll also ask questions about your lifestyle and professional history. Are you or have you been exposed to loud noise on a regular basis? It may be that you have some noise-induced hearing loss that predates any emerging age-related hearing loss.
The audiologist will also want to know about what your current symptoms are. Are you in for a hearing test as a matter of routine or do you have problematic hearing loss? When is your hearing loss most noticeable? Do you also experience tinnitus- the ringing, buzzing or other sounds you might notice when no other sound is present?
Finally, what about your current lifestyle is important to you? Do you play any sports or musical instruments? What do you want to get out of your hearing loss treatment? Do you participate in social groups? Are you in the workforce? Do you frequently attend lectures or go out to see movies? Are you trying to hear the television or radio better?
Think for a while, before your hearing test, about the things that are most important to you. There is a wide range of hearing aid technology and different models are more or less appropriate for different kinds of activities. Your audiologist can help you select the model that makes the most sense for your lifestyle, and the better you can describe what you need to use your hearing aids for, the better their guidance can be.
The Hearing Test
The hearing test itself is completely painless and non-invasive. You’ll be asked to sit in a sound-proof booth or small room to eliminate the influence of outside noises. There, you’ll likely wear a set of headphones through which your audiologist will send various sounds. You’ll be asked to respond to the sounds in one way or another. Each type of sound is associated with a different type of hearing test, designed to determine different things about your hearing ability.
This is a standard type of hearing test which you might remember from childhood. The audiologist plays sine waves at different frequencies into one or both of your ears.
Sine waves are the purest type of sound. They produce vibration at one frequency and one frequency alone, whereas other sounds always exist at two or more frequencies at once. (Most sounds occupy a wide range of frequencies across the audible spectrum.) This way the audiologist can determine if you have a hearing loss at 1500 Hz but not at 900 Hz.
Pure-tone audiometry produces the most representable measurement of your hearing loss profile, which will be used to fit (program, or tune) your hearing aids to match your individual hearing loss perfectly.
Here the audiologist will play recordings of human speech at different volume levels to determine what the most comfortable and discernible range is for you. Again, this will be important when programming hearing aids for your individual use.
Speech In Noise
Here you’ll hear human speech with a noisy background. This test is designed to mimic the way you actually hear in the real world, and may help identify what is known as “hidden hearing loss,” a type of hearing loss that does not show up on traditional tests because it results from problems in the auditory nerves or the brain, rather than the ears themselves.
After your hearing test, your results will be shown to you on an audiogram. This is a graph that plots frequency on the x-axis and dynamics on the y-axis. We will review your audiogram with you. If a hearing loss is detected, we’ll work with you to find the best solution for your hearing needs.
If you’re ready to start your journey to better hearing, contact us today to schedule an appointment.