Different Types of Hearing Tests

Older man and woman at a restaurant

If you have trouble hearing high frequency sounds and making out conversations in a crowded place, or simply suspect you or a loved one may have hearing loss, you may end up visiting an audiologist. An audiologist is qualified to administer hearing tests and evaluate the best options to help mitigate hearing loss. There are many different tests which can be ordered, and each one is designed to provide the best possible diagnosis for the individual situation. A hearing test can help evaluate type and range of hearing loss.

Hearing tests are completely safe and painless, are performed in comfort in your audiologist's office, usually with soundproof headphones, and the results are shown on an audiogram to help your audiologist explain the range of hearing loss and how you can expect it to affect your day-to-day life. They are performed in a soundproof booth often with the use of specially designed headphones.

Pure Tone Testing 
Pure tone testing uses air conduction to measure various pitches and volumes of sound you can hear. Normally you'll simply be asked to raise your hand when you hear a tone come through the headphones. Audiometry is the most common type of hearing test and can be used to help identify base ranges of hearing. Another type of pure tone test, bone conduction testing is able to define the response of your inner ear to sound using a small conductor placed behind your ear. The inner ear will receive vibrations directly from the conductor, through the bone of your skull, instead of through the air. This can help determine the cause of the hearing loss as well as confirm its range.

Speech Testing
Your speech reception threshold (SRT) is the quietest form of speech you can understand at least 50 percent of. This kind of test can be administered in both noisy and quiet environments and help determine how much conversation you miss and how to rectify the issue by measuring your ability to separate speech from background noise like music, television, a restaurant, or many people talking.

Tympanometry
Tympanometry is an air pressure test that measures the movement of your eardrum to help reveal if there are blockages, which could be caused by a buildup of fluid or wax, a perforation of the ear drum, severe swelling due to an infection, or even a tumor in the tissue of the ear.

Acoustic Reflex Testing
Measuring involuntary muscle contractions in the middle ear can help narrow down which part of the ear is the source of hearing loss. Acoustic reflex testing can identify either the ossicles (bones), the cochlea, or the auditory nerve as the culprit as well as helping to define the specific type of hearing loss.

Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)
ABR testing can determine whether sensorineural hearing loss exists, by measuring brainwaves in reaction to sounds of different intensities. This is helpful in cases when the individual cannot understand or speak clearly.

Your audiologist can determine which test or tests will be best for helping to define your hearing loss and then use the information to devise the best plan of care.

There are different types of hearing tests for different situations. Each one has specific uses and indications.