How To Prepare
Tell your doctor if you:
- Have recently been exposed to any painfully
loud noise or to a noise that made your ears ring. Avoid loud noises for 16
hours prior to having a thorough hearing test.
- Are taking or have
taken antibiotics that can damage hearing, such as gentamicin.
had any problems hearing normal conversations or noticed any other signs of
possible hearing loss.
- Have recently had a cold or ear
Before beginning any hearing tests, the health professional
may check your ear canals for earwax and remove any hardened wax, which can
interfere with your ability to hear the tones or words during testing.
For tests in which you wear headphones, you will need to remove
eyeglasses, earrings, or hair clips that interfere with the placement of the
headphones. The health professional will press on each ear to find out whether
the pressure from the headphones on your outer ear will cause the ear canal to
close. If so, a thin plastic tube may be placed in the ear canal before the
testing to keep your ear canal open. The headphones are then placed on your
head and adjusted to fit.
If you are wearing hearing aids, you
may be asked to remove them for some of the tests. You may be asked to shampoo
your hair before you have auditory brain stem response (ABR) testing.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about the need for a
hearing test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To
help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
How It Is Done
Hearing tests can be done in an
audiometry laboratory by a hearing specialist (audiologist) or in a doctor's office, a school, or the workplace by a nurse, health
professional, psychologist, speech therapist, or audiometric technician.
Whispered speech test
In a whispered speech test,
the health professional will ask you to cover the opening of one ear with your
finger. The health professional will stand
1 ft (0.3 m) to
2 ft (0.6 m) behind you and
whisper a series of words. You will repeat the words that you hear. If you
cannot hear the words at a soft whisper, the health professional will keep
saying the words more loudly until you can hear them. Each ear is tested
Pure tone audiometry
Pure tone audiometry uses a
machine called an audiometer to play a series of tones through headphones. The
tones vary in pitch (frequency, measured in hertz) and loudness (intensity,
measured in decibels). The health professional will control the volume of a
tone and reduce its loudness until you can no longer hear it. Then the tone
will get louder until you can hear it again. You signal by raising your hand or
pressing a button every time you hear a tone, even if the tone you hear is very
faint. The health professional will then repeat the test several times, using a
higher-pitched tone each time. Each ear is tested separately. The headphones
will then be removed, and a special vibrating device will be placed on the bone
behind your ear. Again, you will signal each time you hear a tone.
Tuning fork tests