Your Hearing Test
When you have a hearing test, it will usually happen after you have already seen your family doctor, and he or she has referred you to a specialist like those at ENT Associates of Santa Barbara. The ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist) will do a number of things, including assessing you for any discharge or pain from your ears and considering any other medical problems that may be relevant. He or she will use an auriscope to examine your ears. This is a small flashlight that has a magnifying glass attached, and it allows the ENT to see all the way into your ear drum. He or she will be able to see if your ear drum is bulging, retracted, or perforated, and also if there are any foreign bodies or wax that could be blocking your ear. There are also other simple tests that the ENT might use to determine if you have hearing loss, and if it appears that anything is wrong, you will be advised to have a hearing test with the audiologist.
Once you have been referred, there are a number of ways to test your hearing. The following are brief explanations of the different types of tests:
Pure Tone Audiometry
This test, also known as PTA, checks the hearing in both your ears. An audiometer is a machine that delivers sound at various sound levels and frequencies. You listen through a set of head phones, and when you hear the sound, you press a button.
Whispered Voice Test
This is very simple – it just involves having one of your ears blocked while the tester whispers words to you at various volume levels, while you repeat the words when you hear them.
If your ear drum is working properly, it should allow sound to pass to your middle ear. You can experience hearing problems if instead of delivering the sound to the middle ear, your ear drum sends it back. With tympanometry, your tester will seal your ear using a plastic bung, and use a machine to change your ear canal pressure. In this way, the tester can determine if you have any fluid behind your ear drum that could be causing sound to bounce back.
Tuning Fork Test
Tuning forks produce sound waves when tapped. With this type of test, the tester gently touches the tuning fork on their knee or elbow, making it vibrate, and then holds the tuning fork at various places around your head. This test helps to determine if sounds are not transmitting effectively into your inner ear – in other words, if you have conductive hearing loss because your auditory nerve or your inner ear are not working the way they should.
Bone Conduction Test
A bone conduction test is a somewhat more sophisticated rendition of the tuning fork test. It involves placing a probe against your ear’s mastoid bone, and allowing it to vibrate in order to determine how well sound is delivered through the mastoid bone.
An audiogram is a means of recording the results of your hearing test on a graph. Different pitches and volumes are recorded, and the kinds of sounds that you can hear are identified. This helps to determine the kind of hearing loss you have, and enables our audiologist to determine what type of treatment or hearing aid would be best for you.