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Types of Tests Used to Evaluate Hearing in Children and Adults

a hearing loss patient is receiving an ear examination

If you’re ever in doubt about the hearing of yourself or your children, the best thing to do is to visit an audiologist and get your hearing tested as soon as possible. By doing this, you will be able to quickly find solutions that can improve your hearing, assuage your concerns and potentially even prevent further hearing loss. 

Particularly if you are bringing a child to a hearing test, you may want to know more about the test that could be administered. There are many different types of tests that audiologists use to identify the extent of any hearing loss, and they will change depending on the age of the patient. All these tests are completely safe, painless and efficient.

An initial test

When you first visit your audiologist, they will conduct a series of basic hearing tests to check for hearing loss. These are relatively similar for all ages, except for very young children. This general test will not determine the type or cause of hearing loss, but it will give an idea of the extent of loss and enable your audiologist to refer you on for more specific evaluations.

An initial hearing test will take about half an hour, and it is comprised of four key elements. Firstly, your audiologist will conduct a visual examination to check the outer ear and eardrum, looking for excessive wax buildup or other general issues. 

Then, you will be tested through a process called pure tone audiometry. This involves sitting in a sound booth and listening to tones played at different volume levels. After this, a bone conduction test will identify how well your inner ear is processing sounds. Finally, a pressure test can check for fluid in the middle ear, alongside problems such as an excess of earwax or even a perforation of the eardrum.

Following these tests, your audiologist will interpret and explain the results to you, helping you know how to proceed.

Other types of hearing test

Alongside these basic tests, there are many other types of hearing tests that can be used to help identify hearing loss in both adults and children and especially in young babies. Many of these have specific purposes or check for specific issues, and they may be conducted following the results of a general exam.

Otoacoustic emissions

An otoacoustic emission test (OAE) is used to identify faults in the inner ear by analyzing tiny vibrations made by hairs in the inner ear as they respond to sound. During this test, a small probe will be gently placed in your ear. It will then send sounds into your ear, and measure any sounds that come back. 

The live results of its measurements will be broadcast on a screen for your audiologist to analyze. This test is particularly useful for babies or very small children, as you do not have to talk or respond to stimuli during the test.

Speech testing

On the other hand, speech testing is a useful exam for older children and adults. It can take place in noisy or quiet locations. Your audiologist will say words at different volumes to you through headphones and ask you to repeat them back. They will then make a note of how quickly you are able to respond, and what the lowest volume of a word is that you are able to hear and accurately repeat. It is used to test word recognition, and also how well people can hear whilst surrounded by background noise.

Auditory brainstem response (ABR)

An auditory brainstem response test is often used for those who cannot complete a regular hearing test. This can include young children and even newborn babies. In an ABR, electrodes will be placed on your head to measure brain wave activity in response to various sounds that will be played to you through headphones. Once again, you do not have to respond to these sounds, simply relax or even sleep and let your audiologist interpret the results.

Middle ear tests

Finally, tympanometry, acoustic reflex measures and static acoustic impedance tests, are all used to test the middle ear function. These are particularly important for young children aged three to five who may be prone to ear infections. These tests check how well the parts of the middle ear such as the eardrum and other tiny muscles are functioning, as well as seeing if there is any excess air or fluid in the ear, that could come from an infection.

What happens next

If you want to find out more about any of these tests, or book an initial screening test, call us today at 315-496-4314 to reach Clifton Springs Hearing Center and speak to an audiologist today.


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