Six Different Hearing Test Types

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Is your sense of hearing not as strong as it used to be? In order for a person to receive sound information, the tone he/she hears reaches the ear, inducing eardrum vibrations. Owing to the vibrations, the waves stimulate the nerve cells inside the organ to send information to the brain. 

Hearing loss occurs in the event of an issue with the parts or nerves in the ear due to an infection, long-term exposure to loud noises, a head injury, or genetics. With the advancement of hearing technology, modern hearing aids that are rechargeable can help individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss. Audiologists use different types of hearing tests to measure the ability of individuals to hear tones of different volumes and pitches. 

Learn more about these tests in detail. 

Pure tone audiometry (PTA)

Pure tone audiometry tests are generally given to patients when having their hearing tested for the first time. With the help of air conduction, audiologists test the capability of individuals to hear sounds of different volumes with each ear. 

Moreover, the audiologist will take you to a soundproof room and ask you to wear a pair of headphones. After placing the headphones on your ears, this professional will send various sounds for you to hear. Their volume and pitch will alter in the course of testing, ranging from abnormally loud tones to almost inaudible noises. 

You’ll be required to raise your hand or press a particular button upon hearing a tone as a response. The results from this type of evaluation are provided in the form of an audiogram. This graph speaks volumes about the hearing loss in patients by evaluating their ability to hear tones of different pitch and intensity. 

Middle ear muscle reflex (MEMR) test

MEMR testing, otherwise known as acoustic reflex testing, is a specific type of test designed for assessing the response of the ear to loud sounds. In normal conditions, an acoustic reflex occurs every time a person is exposed to loud tones, referring to the contraction of a miniature muscle inside the organ. Individuals aren’t even aware such a muscle contraction happens in the middle ear. 

During the test, a rubber tip is put inside your ear in order for the audiologist to send loud sounds through the device. In the meantime, a machine records the tones and demonstrates if any of them has induced an acoustic reflex. People will severe hearing loss will experience such a reflex when hearing particularly loud sounds, whereas others might not even experience a reflex, regardless of their loudness. 

Furthermore, this kind of testing is also used to pinpoint the type of hearing loss and determine the exact location of the issue. For instance, the problem might be located in the acoustic (cochlear) nerve, the cochlea, or the ossicles in the middle ear. Go to this page to gain insight into the function and anatomy of the cochlear nerve.

Tuning fork test

The tuning fork test is designed to evaluate the flow of sounds through the middle and inner ear with the help of a metal instrument, known as a tuning fork. This device emits tones when hit lightly and starts vibrating. 

Additionally, the audiologist will put this metal instrument either behind your ear or on different places on your head. He/ She will tap the device for it to start producing tones. You, on the other hand, will be asked to provide a report on the sounds you hear. You’ll be asked to explain whether you heard the tones with the left and right ear or just one of them. 

Audiologists evaluate the hearing loss of patients by assessing the response they provide. The location of the tuning fork throughout the test plays a major role in determining which ear is affected by hearing loss. Also, it provides information about the form of hearing loss, whether it’s conductive or sensorineural. 

Speech (word recognition) testing

The goal of speech perception testing is to determine the ability of individuals to hear spoken language, as well as separate speech from background sounds. Similar to the other tests, you’ll be required to wear headphones through which you’ll listen to the words pronounced by the audiologist. 

The volume at which the words are pronounced is different, and you’ll be required to repeat the same words you listen to irrespective of the speaker volume. This type of testing is performed in both quiet and noisy environments, as some people have trouble understating speech when exposed to background noises. 

Tympanometry test

Tympanometry is a special test designed for testing the functionality of the eardrum. When the eardrum is healthy, it allows sound to flow through it without any obstructions. In contrast, when this thin membrane is damaged, people are prevented from hearing well. 

Consequently, the tympanometry test is capable of detecting any kind of wax or fluid buildup behind the membrane, as well as all types of irregular movements. In the course of this test, the audiologist inserts a tiny device in the ear canal whose role is to increase the air pressure inside the canal. When exposed to such pressure, the eardrum moves forwards and backwards. 

Furthermore, a machine is used to record the eardrum movements so as to detect any abnormalities. The results show if patients suffer from an ear infection or have a hole in the membrane. 

Bone conduction testing

The role of bone conduction testing is to evaluate the ability of the inner ear to absorb sound. The audiologist sends a series of tones directly to the inner ear by using a small vibrating device. By placing the device behind one’s ear, the vibration reaches the intended location by penetrating the skull bone. 

In addition, such testing is used as an alternative to pure tone audiometry in the event of middle ear damage. Performing both types of tests is considered beneficial for determining the form of hearing loss in patients. By comparing the results, audiologists can easily differentiate between conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. 

Final word

A hearing evaluation is recommended to everyone suspecting hearing loss. 

Visit an audiologist on time!