What to expect from a hearing test
Roughly 44 million Americans get an annual physical exam (1), but did you know that you should also be getting your hearing checked at least once every three years? This recommendation goes up to once every year if you are above the age of 50 or are in environments that put your hearing at risk. If you have ringing in your ears or struggle to listen to conversations, you should visit a hearing specialist immediately.
Most people dread going to the dentist, but should you dread the audiologist too? Fortunately, testing your hearing is easy and painless. If you don’t know the process of getting your hearing tested and the uncertainty seems intimidating, we’re here for you. We’ve put together everything you need to know about hearing tests.
In-person testing is the most accurate way to get your hearing tested and takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. This type of test takes place in an isolated, soundproof room with headphones or earphones. A hearing specialist instructs patients from outside of the room and can be viewed through a glass window. The most common steps of a hearing test include a video otoscopy, pure tone testing, and speech testing.
Video Otoscopy: The first step of a hearing test is the video otoscopy. This is when a hearing specialist inserts a camera into your ear to check for a buildup of earwax, damage to the eardrum, or any other medical conditions. It might tickle, but it is painless.
Pure Tone Testing: This is also called air conduction testing. During pure tone testing, you will hear beeps that play at different volumes and frequencies, and you must indicate when you’ve heard them. This part tests how well you can hear different tones and at what volume. The results of this test are what is primarily used to program hearing aids.
Speech Testing: This part of the test states a series of words that sometimes includes background noise, and you must repeat the words you hear. These words are usually phonetically balanced, which means they address most enunciations that you would encounter in a conversation. This is an important part of the test because it analyzes your word recognition in an ideal listening situation.
Bone Conduction Testing: This test is not essential, and not every specialist will utilize it. Bone conduction testing is very similar to pure tone testing. However, an instrument called a bone oscillator is placed on your skull directly behind your ear using a headband. It is used to transmit sound directly to your cochlea, a part of your inner ear. This test is the most accurate reflection of your hearing potential because factors like earwax and allergies can temporarily obstruct your hearing. This method bypasses those obstructions for the most accurate reflection of your hearing or can help indicate if there are issues with the outer or middle ear.
If you have never visited an audiologist, you might be due for a visit. For a detailed assessment, Lucid offers free visits with a hearing specialist in our 500+ hearing centers nationwide, without requiring a Sam’s Club membership. You can easily schedule an appointment at your nearest Sam’s Club with this link (https://schedule.lucidhearing.com/).
An example of audiogram results
Audiograms are the results of your hearing test. An audiogram should reflect the hearing ability of each ear. This is not a pass or fail test. Hearing loss is broken down into decibel ranges of what you can and cannot hear.
- Mild hearing loss: Cannot hear 20 to 39 decibels. Examples include rustling leaves and whispering.
- Moderate hearing loss: Cannot hear 40 to 69 decibels. Examples include the hum of the refrigerator, moderate rainfall, and moderate to quiet conversations.
- Severe hearing loss: Cannot hear 70 to 89 decibels. Examples include city traffic and trucks.
- Profound hearing loss: Cannot hear 90+ decibels. Examples include hair dryers, helicopters, and trombones.
Examples of common sounds in each decibel range
Online Hearing Test
Online hearing tests typically take around 10 minutes to complete. They can be taken on any device with headphones. For more accurate results, make sure that your volume is set to a comfortable level from the start. Just like pure tone testing for in-person assessments, online hearing tests use a series of beeps at varying frequencies and volumes, and you must indicate whether you have heard them. Online hearing tests do not include speech testing or video otoscopy, but testing pure tones is included and is the most important part of a hearing assessment. If you are interested in taking an online hearing test, Lucid Hearing offers free online hearing tests (https://lucidhearing.com/check-hearing) that you can take from the comfort of home.
Hearing assessments can feel overwhelming if you’ve never experienced one before, but they are simple and painless. Even if you don’t believe you have a hearing loss, it’s still beneficial to get your hearing tested. A study by Hearing Health found that “about 1 in 4 US adults who report excellent to good hearing already have hearing damage” (2), and untreated hearing loss can significantly affect your life, including an increase in social isolation (3). However, if you catch hearing loss early, there are solutions to maintain a high quality of life. With simple and free options, such as visiting a Lucid center or taking our online test, it’s easy to stay aware of your hearing health and prevent further damage.
- Mehrotra A, Zaslavsky AM, Ayanian JZ. Preventive Health Examinations and Preventive Gynecological Examinations in the United States. (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/486857) Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(17):1876-1883.
- Hearing Health Foundation. Hearing Loss & Tinnitus Statistics. (https://hearinghealthfoundation.org/hearing-loss-tinnitus-statistics) Accessed 7/20/21.
- Gatehouse S & Akeroyd MA. The Effects of Cueing Temporal and Spatial Attention on Word Recognition in a Complex Listening Task in Hearing-Imparied Listeners. (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1084713808317395) Trends in Amplif. 2008; 12(2): 145-161.