What happens during your hearing test?
When a hearing test is carried out, the audiologist will first ask about any symptoms you may be experiencing such as pain, tinnitus (sounds inside your ears), dizziness and hearing loss. Your ears will then be examined using an otoscope (small hand-held torch) with a magnifying glass to look for any signs of infection, wax or a perforated eardrum.
This is followed by pure tone audiometry (PTA) which tests the hearing of both ears. During PTA, a machine called an audiometer is used to produce sounds at different volumes and pitches. You listen to the sounds through headphones and respond when you hear them by pressing a button. Bone conduction testing is also carried out which involves placing a bone vibrator against the mastoid bone behind the ear. This tests how well sounds transmitted through the bone are heard and how well your inner ear and hearing nerves are working.
The vibrations from the bone conductor go straight to the hearing nerve and bypass any problems in the ear canal, eardrum or hearing bones. Bone conduction testing can help determine whether a hearing loss comes from the outer and middle ear or the inner ear or both.
The results of the hearing test are displayed on a graph called an audiogram. It is used to record the measurements of different volumes and pitches of sounds you heard to show the level of hearing in each ear. As well as showing a comparison between ears, an audiogram can also help determine what type of hearing loss you have, if any.
Tympanometry is another test the audiologist may perform to measure the movement of the eardrum and the pressure behind the eardrum. During tympanometry, a small rubber plug is inserted into the ear to seal the ear canal and then the machine gently changes the pressure in the canal. The results can be used to confirm whether there is any fluid behind the eardrum and can indicate if the Eustachian tube is working normally.