If you have ever had a hearing test, you’ll already know something about audiometry. Audiometry is simply a way of testing how well you can hear. Audiometry tests are noninvasive, and they can tell you and your doctor whether you have any hearing loss.
Hearing loss is when you become less able to hear sounds clearly. It can be caused by aging or by injury or illness. Many people experience hearing loss, and it can lessen your quality of life. Audiometry testing is the first step in diagnosing the causes of hearing loss and in working out what to do next to improve your hearing as much as possible.
Reasons for Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is a common complaint. More than half of people over the age of 65 have some degree of hearing loss. Age isn't the only reason your hearing might get worse. Illnesses and injuries can also have an impact on hearing.
You can develop hearing loss for several reasons:
- severe ear infections
- ear injuries, including ruptured eardrums
- tumors or other growths
- prolonged exposure to loud noises
- medications such as chemotherapy drugs, Viagra, and certain antibiotics
- illnesses such as meningitis
- buildup of earwax; or
- hereditary conditions.
There are several symptoms that might mean you have hearing loss:
- Speech and other sounds sound muffled to you.
- You have difficulty understanding words, especially when there is a lot of background noise.
- You struggle to hear consonants when people are speaking.
- You frequently ask others to repeat themselves or to speak more slowly, clearly, and loudly.
- You need to increase the volume of the television or radio.
- You avoid some social events because you don't think you'll be able to hear people.
Types of Audiometry Testing
If you think you may have hearing loss, you can contact your doctor about hearing tests. You may need to see a specialist called an audiologist for comprehensive testing. The audiologist will suggest different types of testing to assess your hearing and determine the cause of any hearing loss.
None of these tests hurt. You don't need to do anything special to prepare beforehand, and there is no recovery time afterward.
Pure tone audiometry. This test may already be familiar to you if you’ve already had standard screening for your hearing before. You sit in a quiet room and put on a set of headphones. The person administering the test plays a series of sounds at different pitches and volumes in one ear at a time. You have to raise your hand to show the ear in which you can hear the tone.
You may also have a tone test in which you wear a device called a bone oscillator behind each ear. The device vibrates to send sound directly to the inner ear. You must respond each time you hear a sound.
Speech audiometry. This is similar to pure tone testing in that you're seated in a quiet room with headphones. You hear words played at different volumes, and you repeat each word or point to a picture representing the word.
Impedance audiometry. Your doctor inserts a probe into your ear. The probe pushes air against your eardrum, and this makes a sound. The doctor measures the way your eardrum moves in response to the stimulus.
Your doctor records the results of these tests using an audiogram. The data lets the doctor know which volumes and pitches you can hear and which ones you can't make out.
Treatments for Hearing Loss
Most forms of hearing loss are permanent. Although you may not be able to restore lost hearing, there are options to help you improve what hearing you have.
Cleaning ears. If your hearing loss is due to a buildup of ear wax or debris in your ear, cleaning might help. Your doctor can carefully remove the buildup using special tools. This can usually be done in the doctor's office.
Hearing aids. There are many types of devices you can use to improve your hearing. Your doctor can talk to you about the best type of hearing aid for your specific hearing loss.
Surgery. Some types of hearing loss improve with surgery. If you have fluid trapped behind your eardrum, your doctor can drain the fluid with small tubes. Surgery might also be able to resolve problems with your eardrum or with the bones in your ears.
Cochlear implants. If you have profound hearing loss, you might be a candidate for a cochlear implant. This is a device surgically placed in the inner ear. It directly stimulates your auditory nerve to restore hearing function.
Lifestyle aids. If you have hearing problems, there are different types of technology that can help you to work around this. You can use captions on television or videos, for example. A speech-to-text app might also be helpful, and there are various amplification devices you can use on your phone.
Talk to your doctor about audiometry if you think you may have hearing loss.