An audiometric test, also known as a hearing test, is an ear exam administered by a hearing professional done to determine a person’s ability to hear by measuring how well sound reaches the brain.
How do we hear?
When we hear sounds they begin as vibrations in the air. These vibrations create sound waves that vibrate at a certain frequency and amplitude that affects the pitch and volume of the sound itself. When the sound waves travel into the ear, they become nerve impulses that are sent to the brain. Hearing occurs when the sound waves strike the eardrum causing it to vibrate. The vibrations then move to the bones in the middle ear, which in turn vibrate as well. This boosts the sound before it gets sent to the inner ear. Once in the inner ear, the vibrations hit the cochlea (the sensory hearing organ), where tiny hair cells inside it pick up the sound and send it to the brain. The brain is able to understand the sound, and that’s how we hear.
How do hearing tests work?
Prior to undergoing a hearing test, the hearing professional will ask you questions that relate to your hearing. These questions will help them get a better understanding of your family history, if hearing loss runs in your family and if you have been subjected to loud noises that may be hindering your ability to hear. Once these questions have been answered, your ears will be examined with an otoscope. This allows the hearing professional to see if the eardrum or ear canal have been traumatized.
After the initial examination, you will be subjected to four non-painful auditory tests. These tests are done in a quiet room where no background noise is present.
1. Pure tone test
This test is done to gauge your ability to hear a number of different tones. You will be asked to wear a pair of soundproof headphones and raise your hands or press a button when you hear each tone.
2. Bone conduction test
This test is done by placing a small bone conductor behind your ear to reveal if there’s a problem within the middle ear cavity.
3. Speech test
This test will recognize if you have trouble understanding speech. Like the pure tone test, you will be given headphones, but instead of tones, you will be asked to listen and identify different words and then repeat them.
4. Tympanometry test
This test measures the movement of the eardrum and the pressure behind it. A small plastic bung is placed over the ear to seal it. This bung is attached to a machine that gradually changes the pressure in your ear canal. If there’s any fluid behind the eardrum and if the Eustachian tube (the tube that links to the middle ear) is functioning properly, the tympanometry test will reveal it.
Once all the tests have been completed, you will be presented with an audiogram that shows the degree of hearing loss you’ve experienced. Whether the tests indicate that you’ve experienced moderate or severe hearing loss, there is a solution: hearing aids.