Millions of Americans have hearing problems. An insidious feature of hearing loss is its gradual development without vivid symptoms in most cases. As a result, many people do not notice their hearing loss in the early stages of its development and seek help when there are serious problems.
Does your loved one often have trouble hearing you? Do you have trouble hearing your TV, smartphone, and other gadgets? Do you tire of turning up the volume? Have you started to experience difficulties in orientation in space? All this suggests that you have started hearing problems. To confirm or deny this, you must undergo special tests that will show the presence/absence of the problem.
Why conduct hearing tests?
Healthy hearing plays an important role in our life. Communication with loved ones, with society, and just the sounds of the outside world – all this is necessary for every person. Moreover, hearing loss leads not only to physical but also psychological disorders (depression, stress, insomnia, etc.).
In order not to face such problems, you must carefully monitor your health, including your hearing health. And if you find the first signs of hearing loss in yourself, you should immediately seek help. After all, the sooner the treatment begins, the faster you will regain your lost abilities. To have a complete history of hearing loss (or lack thereof), you need to undergo several audiological examinations. First of all, your doctor will recommend a hearing screening. It’s a simple test, which shows the presence or absence of hearing loss. It is also compulsory for all babies and children.
Dr. Zhanneta Shapiro, our leading care hearing professional, notes that a hearing screening is not enough to determine the type and extent of hearing loss if you do have one. This requires a diagnostic hearing evaluation. This is a comprehensive examination, which shows the type and extent of hearing loss. Understanding hearing test results enable the audiologist to find the right treatment for hearing recovery.
Thus, hearing tests answer the main questions:
Do you have a hearing loss?
What is the type and degree of development of hearing loss?
What treatment should be prescribed?
What hearing tests are most effective?
Often a person is unaware of hearing problems. Hearing loss can be gradual and subtle. Usually, people around you notice the problem faster. Hearing loss can progress and bring great problems. Early diagnosis of hearing loss symptoms can help stop the deterioration and initiate adequate treatment.
Audiometry is a standard hearing test that allows you to determine a person’s sensitivity to sound waves at various frequencies. The procedure is quite simple and completely painless. Hearing testing is carried out in a soundproof room, protected from extraneous noise. Sounds of air conditioners, heaters, extraneous conversations, and other factors that can interfere with the test or affect its results are excluded.
During the examination, an adult patient wears special headphones connected to an audiometer, which is used for passing tests. Indoor speakers are used for newborns, young children, and patients with hearing aids or implants.
In order to identify the problem early, it is recommended to have a hearing test once a year. Testing can be done once every three months if there are symptoms of deterioration or prerequisites for it. There are several types of testing:
The audiologist conducts testing by having you listen to sounds at different frequencies and at different volumes. In order for each sound to be clearly heard, you need to wear headphones. The tone is calibrated using a test tone.
It’s a common hearing test. During the testing, instead of sounds, recorded or live speech of a specialist is used. During these tests, the audiologist measures the hearing threshold of the quietest and loudest speech that the patient can hear and understand. You have to repeat words. The test determines the most comfortable listening range, its lower and upper volume limits, and the ability to understand speech at a specific level.
The initial hearing screening of newborns is carried out in the maternity hospital. The procedure is painless and is usually performed while the child is sleeping. A small soft plug is placed in the ear of the newborn and connected to an audiometer. There are two types of research:
Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR). The audiometer registers the response of the auditory nerve to clicking sounds. In addition to the plug, small electrodes are attached to the newborn’s scalp and record brain activity. Testing is done on each ear and confirms that the baby’s brain responds to sounds.
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE). The test checks the response of the inner ear to sound. The testing is mainly aimed at infants and children. The audiometer records the smallest vibrations that the patient’s inner ear emits in response sounds. A test is performed on each ear and confirms that the inner ear hears audible signals.
Newborn hearing screening is one of the most important screenings in every child’s life. Because of this, hearing losses in children are picked up very very early and with proper intervention, the child can develop proper speech milestones and lead a regular life.
In many newborns, fluid may remain in the ear after birth, so there are frequent cases of insufficient response to sounds. It’s completely normal. If the initial examination of hearing did not give a positive result, then the doctor prescribes additional tests during the first months of life.
This test measures the pressure that the middle ear can withstand. A method is used to identify the causes of conductive hearing loss. A source of continuous sound and a microphone are inserted into the ear. Tympanometry is used to determine if there are any problems with the ear drum or the middle ear.
What to expect from a hearing test?
The result of the audiometry testing is displayed as an audiogram. What is an audiogram? It consists of two graphs depicted on a plane with two coordinate axes. Sometimes the number of graphs reaches four. They depict air and bone conduction curves for each ear. The horizontal axis is divided into divisions corresponding to the signal frequency, expressed in hertz (Hz). The vertical axis shows the level of signal intensity and is expressed in decibels (dB). Decibels indicate the amount of signal attenuation that the patient’s auditory organ is able to perceive.
The audiogram shows, which sounds the patient hears and which ones they do not, which parts of the hearing work well, and which ones have problems. There are international standards according to which the audiologist evaluates the degree of hearing sensitivity. The hearing thresholds are as follows:
Hearing is normal – from 0 to 25 dB
Mild hearing loss (1 degree) – from 26 to 40 dB
Moderate loss (2nd degree) – from 41 to 55 dB
Severe loss (3rd degree) – from 56 to 70 dB
Moderately-severe loss (4 degree) – from 71 to 91 dB
Profound – more than 91 dB
Having received a complete picture of the hearing test results, the audiologist prescribes the correct treatment, including the use of hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Can I take the hearing test online?
Modern technologies are gradually being introduced into our lives, including audiology. Technical devices allow an online hearing test. The type of diagnosis is especially popular in recent years. This is not surprising, because you can test your hearing without leaving your home!
Testing should take place in a quiet room, a calm atmosphere, always with headphones. There are two types of online testing. Sounds or noise effects to determine the range of hearing loss, and answers to test questions. The launched application will make its conclusion according to the results obtained. If the online hearing test reveals some kind of deviation, then it is better to seek help from Audiology Island in a timely manner and not wait for the deterioration.
Keep in mind that online testing is merely a screening and does not give you a full picture of a hearing loss. It’s always best to have your hearing tested professionally in a clinic by a doctor of Audiology.
Remember to protect your hearing! Take preventive measures, it is very important to get a hearing test at the first symptoms. A disease diagnosed and treated in time will restore the health of the auditory organs. Age-related hearing loss cannot be avoided, but it might be possible to significantly delay it!
About Dr Zhanneta Shapiro
Dr Zhanneta Shapiro received her Masters of Science from Brooklyn College in 2005 and completed her Doctorate of Audiology from Florida University in May 2008. Her graduate training was in various hospitals in the tri-state area and a residency period completed at Ear Nose and Throat Associates of New York. [ Learn More ]