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    Hearing Tests

    How It Is Done continued...

    A tuning fork is a metal, two-pronged device that produces a tone when it vibrates. The health professional strikes the tuning fork to make it vibrate and produce a tone. These tests assess how well sound moves through your ear. Sometimes the tuning fork will be placed on your head or behind your ear. Depending on how you hear the sound, your health professional can tell if there is a problem with the nerves themselves or with sound getting to nerves.

    Speech reception and word recognition tests

    Speech reception and word recognition tests measure your ability to hear and understand normal conversation. In these tests, you are asked to repeat a series of simple words spoken with different degrees of loudness. A test called the spondee threshold test determines the level at which you can repeat at least half of a list of familiar two-syllable words (spondees).

    Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) testing

    Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) testing is often used to screen newborns for hearing problems. In this test, a small, soft microphone is placed in the baby's ear canal. Sound is then introduced through a small flexible probe inserted in the baby's ear. The microphone detects the inner ear's response to the sound. This test cannot distinguish between conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

    Auditory brain stem response (ABR) testing

    Auditory brain stem response (ABR) testing detects sensorineural hearing loss. In this test, electrodes are placed on your scalp and on each earlobe. Clicking noises are then sent through earphones. The electrodes monitor your brain's response to the clicking noises and record the response on a graph. This test is also called brain stem auditory evoked response (BAER) testing or auditory brain stem evoked potential (ABEP) testing.

    How It Feels

    There is normally no discomfort involved with a hearing test.


    There are no risks associated with hearing tests.


    A hearing test is part of an ear examination that evaluates a person's ability to hear.

    Hearing test results
    • You are able to hear whispered speech accurately.
    • You can hear tones at equal loudness in both ears.
    • You are able to repeat 90% to 95% of the words in a word recognition test.
    • The microphone detects emissions from the inner ear in otoacoustic emissions (OAE) testing.
    • The values recorded on the graph for auditory brain stem response (ABR) testing show that the nerves in the brain responsible for hearing are working normally.
    • You are not able to hear the whispers during a whispered speech test, or you are able to hear with one ear but not with the other.
    • You hear the tone more loudly in one ear than in the other.
    • You can only hear certain sounds at high decibel levels.
    • You can hear sounds but you cannot understand words.
    • No emissions are detected from the inner ear in otoacoustic emissions (OAE) testing.
    • The values recorded on the graph for auditory brain stem response (ABR) testing show that nerves in the brain responsible for hearing are not functioning normally.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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