Hearing tests are often carried out after your ears have been examined by a doctor and you have then been referred to a hearing specialist.
Step 1 – The Examination
Often your GP or nurse will ask you some questions about any symptoms that you may have been experiencing. Some of these could be:
- Ear pain or fluid discharge
- Tinnitus, which is noise in one or both ears
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Previous hearing issues or related issues
- And of course hearing loss
Your ear might then be examined using an instrument known as an auriscope. This is the small hand-held torch that you would probably have seen your GP use to check your ears when you have had cold or flu symptoms too. It has a magnifying glass inside will let your doctor be able to see your eardrum, along with the passageway that leads to it from the outer ear. They can use it to look for:
- Any fluid collecting in the ear
- bulging eardrums – they can indicate an infection in the middle ear
- a dull eardrum that suggests uninfected fluid in the middle ear that is also referred to as glue ear
- a perforated eardrum – this is a hole in the eardrum that can also include infections
- retracted eardrums where the Eustachian tube is not working as it should
- foreign bodies that might block your ear like excess ear wax or foreign objects
Many Richmond Doctors might also carry out a few simple tests using either their voice or audio equipment to help establish the extent of your hearing loss.
After such tests, if they have any concerns, you may be referred to a specialist such as an ear, throat and nose specialist for further testing.
Hearing Tests For Kids
There are a range of techniques that may be used to detect hearing problems in children. Some hearing tests that are used for children rather than adults are:
- AOAE tests or automated otoacoustic emissions. A computer is attached to a small earpiece that then plays quiet clicking type noises the response from your child’s ear is measured
- AABR tests or automated auditory brainstem response. For this test there are sensors placed on a child’s head and neck that checks the response of their nervous system to sounds that are played to them through headphones
- Play audiometry tests. This simple test involves sounds of different volumes and frequencies being played to your child and they are instructed to carry out simple tasks when they hear them.
There are some tests, such as pure tone audiometry, speech perception and tympanometry that are to test children’s hearing and adults alike.
Hearing Tests For Adults
There are a number of possible tests used to gauge adult hearing. We have listed some of them below.
Pure Tone Audiometry Tests
Pure tone audiometry or PTA hearing tests the quality of your hearing in both ears. During a PTA test, a machine known as an audiometer produces random sounds at various volumes and frequencies and pitches. The patient listens to the sounds through a pair of headphones and responds to the tester when they hear each sound, usually by pressing a button.
Speech Perception Testing
A speech perception test can also be referred to as speech discrimination tests or speech audiometry. This type of test assesses your ability to hear words without the help of any visual input. Words can be played through your headphones or from a speaker system. Sometimes they are just spoken by the tester.
You are likely to be asked to listen to words while there’s also a controlled level of background noise too.
Your eardrum has evolved to allow as much sound as possible to make its way into the middle ear. If a problem arises and sound gets reflected back from your eardrum, then your hearing will then be impaired or reduced.
During a tympanometry test, a small, often plastic bung is inserted into your ear and a machine will gently change the pressure felt in your ear canal. This test can be used when necessary to find out whether there is any fluid that has been collecting behind your eardrum. It can also indicate if the Eustachian tube is working as it should be.
Tympanometry testing can measure the movement of your eardrum and whether or not there is any pressure behind the eardrum which can cause pain and hearing loss.
A Whispered Voice Test
Whispered voice tests are a very basic hearing test that might be the first option for a GP. Usually the person testing you will block one of your ears and then test your hearing in the other by whispering words at different volumes. You will then be asked to either repeat the words you hear out loud or to raise your hand if you can hear when they are spoken.
Tuning Fork Tests
Tuning forks produce strong sound waves. These sounds are created at a fixed pitch, depending on the fork and when they are gently tapped doctors can test different aspects of your hearing.
They will tap the tuning fork perhaps on their elbow or knee, or just on a table to make it vibrate. Then they will hold it at different spots around your head to see if you can hear from any angles better than others.
The purpose of this test is to help determine if you have a conductive hearing loss problem. That means hearing loss is caused by sounds not being able to pass freely through to your inner ear. It can also test for sensori-neural hearing loss. This occurs when the inner ear or hearing nerve is not functioning properly for some reason.
These are just some of the possible tests that doctors use to assess your hearing if you are concerned about it. Depending on the results, the next course of action, if any, will vary to suit the findings. These days we have the best hearing aids than ever before, so if you have a hearing problem, do get too down, there are lots of solutions to help you.