What is a Hearing Test?
Patients who are experiencing hearing problems may have several tests to determine the cause and extent of the hearing loss.
The audiologist takes a history of your hearing/hearing loss. The audiologist then performs various tests to determine the degree, configuration, and possible etiology (cause) of the hearing loss:
- Speech testing
- Brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER)
- Evoked otoacoustic (cochlear) emissions testing
An audiogram is graphical representation of a hearing test that is generally performed in a sound suite using sophisticated, calibrated equipment. A certified audiologist administers the test. Headphones are placed over or in the person’s ears, and tones are presented to each ear, one at a time. The softest level at which the sounds can be heard is recorded as the threshold of hearing.
A small probe is placed into the outer portion of the ear canal, and gentle pressure is put in the patient’s ear canal to help detect middle ear fluid, problems with the middle ear bones, and other conditions.
In these speech reception and word recognition tests, which measure your ability to hear and understand speech, you will be asked to repeat a series of simple words that are spoken by the audiologist or played through a CD.
Auditory Brainstem Response Testing
Auditory brainstem response testing uses computer equipment to record the auditory nerve’s response to sounds delivered to the ears via headphones. The response is recorded from recording disks placed on the patient’s head. This testing is used primarily to diagnose hearing loss in infants and very young children who can’t reliably respond to testing or in adults for site-of-lesion testing.
Auditory brainstem response testing is also used to determine the function of the auditory nerve in adults. This type of testing is often called site-of-lesion testing, and is similar to the auditory brainstem response testing of infants and young children.
Evoked Otoacoustic (Cochlear) Emissions Testing
Otoacoustic emissions are low intensity sounds produced by the inner ear as a response to that ear being stimulated by a sound. A sensitive microphone placed in the outer portion of the ear canal detects the inner ear’s response. Audiologists use this test to rule out hearing loss. Because this test does not require active participation of the patient, it is often used for newborn hearing screening.