Different Types of Hearing Tests and Assessments
The ability to hear makes a significant impact on an individual’s daily routine. If you believe you are starting to suffer from hearing problems, you may find it tough to get through the day. Going to a hearing service provider for a hearing test doesn’t have to be embarrassing or out of the ordinary in any way. Just like a regular health check, it is good to monitor your hearing and have it checked at least once a year.
While audiologists do an excellent job in uncovering the types and causes of hearing loss, it is also beneficial to have some basic knowledge of the average hearing range so you know what to look out for in case you start to notice any differences.
- Ability to hear at and below 25dB is considered a normal hearing range.
- Those that struggle to hear sounds above 25dB are considered to have mild hearing loss.
- Severe hearing loss types experience difficulty hearing below 71dB.
- Those at risk of reaching deafness can usually not hear sounds above 91dB.
Whatever the case, our ears just like our eyes provide an important function in our lives and therefore should be tested annually. There are different types and levels of tests an audiologist may conduct. This is dependent on the type and severity of your hearing loss. However, some people may be required to take these hearing tests if their problems are related to balance or tinnitus.
Several factors affect the type of test you may take such as your age. For example, an infant between the ages of 3.5 to 5 years would generally take a Play Audiometry test, while adults take a Pure Tone Audiogram (PTA) test. These tests are referred to as Audiometric testing. Additional to the Audiometric test, Attune Hearing clients are often subject to additional hearing test types should the PTA indicate a loss or need for further analysis. These additional tests are designed to identify unidentified medical problems.
An audiometric test helps an audiologist determine the hearing threshold level of an individual. Pure tone “beeps” are tested at different frequencies to determine the softest level of sound a person can hear. While these tests may seem complex, they only take between 6-8 minutes to conduct. A Pure Tone Audiometric test is non-invasive and painless.
Here is a list of the types of tests and assessments performed by audiologists to identify hearing loss.
Full Diagnostic Hearing Test (Adults)
A pure tone audiogram is one of the most common types of hearing assessment among adults. This test helps identify the degree and extent of one’s hearing capacity. It involves three main types of tests:
- Hearing test – The individual completing the hearing test will be asked to sit in a specialised booth or soundproof room. They are then fitted with a set of headphones and asked to listen to sounds being played. Every time you hear a sound or tone, you will be asked to press a button.
- Speech discrimination test – A follow up of the initial hearing test; the individual is asked to repeat words heard through the headphones.
- Middle ear test – This test involves a small plug that is placed in the ear to measure eardrum movements. This final test determines the nature of hearing loss, such as determining the location of the lesion that is producing the problem.
A PTA is a test conducted for most adults to help identify the severity and type of hearing loss. The results of the test are chartered on an audiogram which determines if further tests are required.
Tests for Children
Hearing tests for children are different than those conducted for adults. As children are still in their cognitive development stage and can struggle with concentration, there is a range of different tests that can be conducted for a child depending on their health, age and development. These include:
Visual Reinforcement Audiometry (VROA)
Between the ages of 8 months to 3.5 years.
Children around this age are still developing concentration and are in their speech and sound development phase. Normal audiometry tests would not be able to identify a hearing loss in an infant. As such, the VROA has been designed: The child following a response is rewarded by a puppet test show (see the image below). This helps with the infants’ concentration during the testing process. This test maps out a child’s response to certain sounds presented through a loudspeaker.
For ages 3.5 – 5 years
By this stage, children are capable of constructing sentences, so this test is more interactive. Children are asked to respond to sounds heard through headphones and asked to point or to repeat the words aloud. The Play Audiometry test also includes the middle ear test, which follows the same procedure as in the PTA assessment. This test tests the ears independently of each other.
Pure Tone Audiogram (PTA)
For ages 6 and above
Follows the same tests as a regular test as mentioned above for adults, with minor changes to help children’s concentration.
(Central) Auditory Processing Disorder (C)APD Testing
For ages 7 and above
This is a more specific test generally conducted by audiologists when children show learning difficulties in the classroom. This could be a result of the child suffering from (C)APD which leads to difficulty in understanding and interpreting auditory information without any apparent signs of physical hearing loss.
Children often fail to identify hearing problems as they’re not aware of its characteristics. It is important for the parent/ guardian of a child to watch out for the subtle signs that indicate a hearing loss in order to get treatment right away and prevent further damage.
How is a balance test related to hearing conditions?
Our sense of balance is coordinated from a series of signals passing through the ear to the brain in combination with the eyes. A change or disturbance in our body can lead to an imbalanced distribution of the fluid in our ears, affecting the balance centres in our brain. If you believe you are experiencing difficulty maintaining your balance (such as experiencing dizzy spells often or unsteadiness), it is best to get a balance test conducted by an audiologist to identify the extent of your balance disorder.
Tinnitus can be best described as the sound of ringing or buzzing in the ears. According to Healthdirect, about 1 in 3 people in Australia suffer from tinnitus at some point in their life. Tinnitus doesn’t have to be a major cause of concern unless it is happening regularly and starting to affect your life. While tinnitus itself is not a type of hearing loss, many sufferers of tinnitus experience hearing loss. The best way to treat tinnitus is for an audiologist to conduct a test and provide the right treatment.
For people working in an environment where they are often exposed to loud noises, a noise assessment can be conducted to help identify if they are at risk of hearing loss. A noise assessment is conducted in accordance with the level of noise in the workplace. A detailed preliminary noise assessment is done for areas with excessive noise exposure. Follow up noise tests can be conducted every 5 years or if a new factor that increases noise level has been introduced. These tests are conducted by trained noise officers or engineers that visit your worksite to evaluate and measure noise levels using a calibrated noise level meter.
What happens after a hearing test?
Once an audiometry test is done, an audiologist evaluates the results of the test to determine the number of factors that affect a person’s hearing ability. An audiometry test can uncover:
- degree of sensitivity to sounds at different frequencies
- if a more comprehensive test is needed
- an asymmetry exists between two ears
Once the results have been analysed, the audiologist will provide the individual with a comprehensive understanding of their hearing condition. The audiologist will be able to help determine what steps should be taken next. Some patients may be advised to buy earplugs while some may require a hearing aid or assistive listening device. If the damage is related to the cochlear, then the audiologist will refer the patient to an ENT surgeon for consideration for cochlear implantation.
The Attune Audiologists
At Attune Hearing Pty Ltd, our audiologists are experts in taking a holistic approach when it comes to hearing tests to ensure a comprehensive analysis of your hearing. We provide services for identifying hearing loss as well as solutions to combat your condition in the most effective way possible. Concerned with your hearing? Call the nearest Attune branch near you and book in a free 15-minute hearing test to see if you need further diagnosis.