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If you’re having trouble following conversations in crowded spaces, if your TV volume is creeping up but you still can’t hear or if your spouse is getting tired of you frequently asking you what you said for the umpteenth time, then it might be time to get checked out for the hearing loss you have.

Today, there are many types of hearing tests, but not everyone needs to take each one. An appointment with an audiologist is the first step in determining the presence and type of hearing loss, and he or she may check your hearing in multiple ways—a discipline known as audiometry.

What Is Audiometry?

Audiometry is, simply, the administration of various hearing tests using an array of tools. An audiometry test will measure the volume and tone of the sounds you hear, and some types can uncover balance problems or problems with the ear. Sound volume—or intensity—is measured in decibels (dB), and tone is measured in Hertz (Hz). Whispers are about 20 dB and jet engines are upward of 140 dB. Most human speech falls between the 500 to 3,000 Hz range.

Here’s what you can expect from some of the most common and useful types of hearing tests:

Pure Tone Audiometry

What It Is: The pure tone audiometry test is considered the “gold standard” of hearing tests because it is generally the most accurate and comprehensive of hearing tests. It is the most common type of hearing test and measures the sensitivity and balance of your hearing loss (i.e., the intensity and tone of the sounds you’re able to hear in both ears).

How It’s Done: Pure tone audiometry uses a device called an audiometer that produces sounds of varying intensity and tone. The person being tested responds when he or she hears a sound, often by raising a hand. When headphones or earphones are worn, this test can check the balance of hearing loss by playing sound in one ear at a time. If headphones are not worn, this is known as sound-field testing.

Auditory Brainstem Response Test

What It Is: The auditory brainstem response (ABR) test measures how your brain responds to sounds. It is useful in determining if your hearing loss is being caused by a problem on the pathway from your ear to your brain.

How It’s Done: For the ABR test, electrodes are attached to your head and earphones on. A sound will be played through the earphones, and the audiologist will be able to see from a readout the electrical impulses your brain fires off in response. You don’t have to do anything but sit quietly during an ABR test. This type of test is done only in certain circumstances and is not considered a routine part of most hearing evaluations.

Otoacoustic Emissions Test

What It Is: The otoacoustic emissions (OAE) test measures the tiny sounds that the hair cells in your inner ear give off in response to sound waves entering the ear. In a healthy ear, hair cells vibrate, and those vibrations give off very soft sounds called otoacoustic emissions. In the ears of a person with hearing loss, the hair cells will not produce otoacoustic emissions.

How It’s Done: A probe is inserted into your ear that produces sound to make the hair cells vibrate and also measures those vibrations. You do not have to do anything but keep still during an OAE test.

Middle Ear Tests

What They Are: Middle ear tests can determine if hearing loss is being caused by a problem between the outer and inner ear. There are three types of middle ear tests: tympanometry tests, acoustic reflex measures and static acoustic impedance.

Tympanometry tests diagnose problems with the eardrum, also known as the tympanum or tympanic membrane. Acoustic reflex measures the contraction of tiny muscles in the inner ear in response to sound. Static acoustic impedance measures how much air is in the ear canal, which can indicate a hole in the eardrum.

How They’re Done: Like the OAE test, middle ear tests depend on a probe in the ear either producing sound or blowing air into the ear. A device will measure either the air flow or the muscle contractions.

What to Expect from Your Hearing Test

No matter the type, hearing tests are quick and painless. They may be performed in far less than an hour each. Your audiologist may start with a physical examination and medical history to see if there are any obvious sources of hearing loss, and may give a brief speech test to get a rough idea of the degree of your hearing loss. Or, they may start with a given test depending on what he or she suspects may be the cause of your hearing loss. It’s also important to know that, depending upon the severity of your hearing loss and the results of the initial test or tests, your audiologist may want to conduct more or different hearing tests.

Come to the Hearing Specialists

At Sonora Hearing Care, our experts are the leaders in the treatment, diagnosis and continued care of hearing difficulties. From evaluation to implant testing and mapping, we are committed to providing the best care possible in a warm, inviting environment.

To schedule a hearing test with one of our specialists, contact us today.