Everything You Need to Know About Hearing Tests
Have you noticed a change in your hearing lately? Are you often asking people to repeat themselves? You could be suffering from hearing loss.
One in six people in Australia suffer from hearing loss, and nearly half of those leave it untreated.
The best way to know if you have hearing loss is to get a hearing test.
Today we will be discussing everything you need to know about hearing tests to let you know what to expect when you go for one.
Why Should You Get a Hearing Test?
Hearing loss tends to be very gradual and can often take years for you to realise your hearing has deteriorated.
Having your hearing tested is the only way to know for sure whether your hearing is normal or not.
However, many people put off getting their hearing tested as they don’t feel there has been a change in their hearing. Just like any other health check, your hearing should be considered part of your overall health.
Another thing to consider is that if you have noticed a change in your hearing but don’t know why it’s happened, getting a hearing test will provide you with a cause and solution. So, the earlier you get your hearing checked, the better.
Online Hearing Tests
Before booking a comprehensive hearing test, some people choose to undergo an online hearing test.
These are calibrated automatic hearing tests to give you an idea of your hearing, but they are not always accurate. There are many variables with online hearing tests, and even if the screening results are accurate, they provide no diagnostic information if hearing loss is discovered.
Often online hearing tests can become easy to predict for the user, resulting in inaccuracies. A full hearing test performed by a hearing professional will not only lead to a more accurate result but will provide diagnostic information that can be used to assess where the issue lies.
What Does a Full Diagnostic Hearing Assessment Include?
Pure tone audiometry (PTA): The gold standard when it comes to assessing your hearing. Pure tone audiometry is used to find the quietest sounds you are capable of hearing. PTA is usually split into two parts, air conduction and bone conduction.
- Air conduction – You will either have headphones or earphones placed over or in your ears and be given a patient response button to press each time you hear a sound. Beeps will be played through the headphones, which will vary in intensity and frequency. It is important to press every time you hear a noise, even if that noise is quiet and you can only just hear it.
- Bone conduction – This is used to assess whether hearing loss is caused by the outer/middle or inner ear. A tight headband is placed on the mastoid bone behind the ear, and air conduction testing is repeated. Often, masking is used to localise a hearing loss to the left or right ear, which involves a competing white noise signal played into one ear as a distraction while the other ear is tested. You will be asked to ignore the masking noise while still responding to the beeps.
Tympanometry: This is a fast, automatic test used to assess the middle ear. It involves a small probe being placed at the entrance to the ear canal and causes a slight pressure change, pulling the eardrum slightly out of position. It is neither invasive nor painful. It provides information about the health of the eardrum and the pressure behind it, which can help diagnose certain types of hearing loss.
Speech audiometry: This tests your ability to understand basic words easily. Words are played in lists of ten, and you will be asked to repeat them to the Audiologist. It often starts easy, but as the volume drops, it becomes harder, and it’s important to try and respond even if you aren’t confident of the answer. This will allow the Audiologist to assess whether the results are consistent with your hearing test and look for any speech processing problems that may need further investigation.
What Constitutes Normal Hearing?
When an Audiologist assesses your hearing, they are looking to ensure you can hear sounds of 20dB or quieter across the tested frequency spectrum.
There really is no “normal hearing for my age”, as hearing loss can develop much sooner in some individuals than others. Another commonly asked question is, “what percentage of hearing loss do I have?”
Again, you will find many Audiologists will not give you a definitive answer, as they prefer to categorise your hearing in terms of mild/moderate/severe and talk about the frequencies involved.
Do You Need Hearing Aids if You Have Hearing Loss?
It depends on the severity of your hearing loss, but personal factors have to be taken into account.
Individuals with mild hearing loss can be affected differently by their loss; some may report no hearing difficulties whatsoever, while others may find that hearing aids make a big difference.
If your Audiologist feels you may benefit from amplification, they will recommend trialling a hearing aid to see what it can do for you.
Will You Need to be Referred to an ENT Specialist?
Your Audiologist will usually write a report to your general practitioner following the test detailing the results and make recommendations based on them.
Although Audiologists cannot directly refer you to an ENT, they can recommend ENT referral as the next step if they think it’s appropriate. Factors that Audiologists will consider include asymmetries between the ears, abnormal tympanometry results and worse than expected speech discrimination.
Unilateral tinnitus is also something that requires the opinion of an ENT Specialist. Tinnitus will usually be discussed during your case history before the hearing test.
Hearing losses are usually categorised into conductive (outer/middle ear-related), sensorineural (inner ear/nerve-related) and mixed (a combination) losses. Combination and mixed hearing losses can be temporary and, therefore, can improve, and as such, medical opinion/intervention is required before hearing aid fitting.
How Often Should You Get a Hearing Test?
If you have been previously diagnosed with hearing loss, Audiologists recommend an annual hearing test to monitor future deterioration.
Even individuals with normal hearing should consider getting a hearing test every two to three years. If you have passed the age of 60, getting a hearing test yearly is recommended.
To Sum It Up
Hearing loss doesn’t just happen once you turn a certain age; it can occur at any point in your life.
If you think your hearing is deteriorating, get a hearing test as soon as possible to see if you have hearing loss or not.
If you have been diagnosed with hearing loss and have been recommended to get hearing aids, look no further than EarDeals. We offer a wide variety of quality hearing aids at affordable prices.