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Audiometry





Audiometry

Introduction

Hearing tests are used to assess your ability to hear different sounds and to determine if there are any problems.

Why are hearing tests needed?

Hearing tests are carried out for two main reasons:

  • as a routine part of a baby’s or young child’s developmental checks
  • to check the hearing of someone who is experiencing hearing problems or has a hearing impairment

It is important that hearing tests are carried out so that the right support and treatment can be provided.

Read more about why hearing tests are needed.

Hearing tests are carried out at regular intervals during childhood, starting with the new born hearing screening programme (NHSP) within a few weeks of birth.

Your child’s hearing may also be checked during a general health review when they are a few years old and before they start school for the first time.

If at any point you are worried about your or your child’s hearing, you can ask your GP for a hearing test.

Read more about when hearing tests are needed.

What happens during a hearing test?

Although your GP or practice nurse can examine your ears, you will usually be referred to a specialist for a hearing test.

A number of different tests are used to check how well the ears are functioning and their ability to detect different levels of sound.

Common hearing tests include:

  • automated otoacoustic emissions (AOAE) tests – a computer attached to an earpiece plays clicking noises and measures the response from the ear
  • automated auditory brainstem response (AABR) tests – sensors are placed on the head and neck to check the response of the nerves to sound played through headphones
  • pure tone audiometry tests – sounds of different volumes and frequencies are played and a button is pressed when they are heard
  • bone conduction tests – a vibrating sensor is placed behind the ear to test how well sound travels through the bones in the ear

The tests used generally differ between children and adults, but they are all completely painless.

The results of some of these tests are recorded on a graph called an audiogram, so that the type of hearing loss can be identified.

Read more about how hearing tests are carried out and hearing and vision tests for children.

Hearing problems

Your hearing may be affected if sounds don’t reach the inner ear efficiently. This is known as conductive hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss can be caused by problems such as a blockage in your ear canal (such as from ear wax) or in the middle ear (for example, glue ear). An infection of your outer ear (otitis externa) or middle ear (otitis media) may also be responsible. Hearing loss of this type is often temporary and reversible.

If sounds reach the inner ear but are still not heard, the fault lies in the inner ear or, rarely, in the hearing nerve. This is called sensori-neural hearing loss. Inner ear hearing loss may occur for a number of reasons, most commonly as a result of age-related change. Inner ear hearing loss is nearly always permanent.

Hearing tests are used to determine the type of hearing loss that you have.

Published Date
2012-11-23 17:16:58Z
Last Review Date
2012-10-22 00:00:00Z
Next Review Date
2014-10-22 00:00:00Z
Classification
Ear,Ear infections,Hearing impairment,Hearing loss,Hearing tests,Otitis externa,Otitis media






 /conditions/articles/hearing-tests/how it is performed

Audiometry

What happens during a hearing test

A hearing test is usually carried out after your ears have been examined and you have been referred to a specialist.

Examination

Your GP or practice nurse will first ask about any symptoms you may be experiencing, such as:

  • pain or discharge (fluid)
  • tinnitus – noise in one or both ears
  • vertigo (dizziness)
  • hearing loss
  • previous, relevant medical problems

Your ear will be examined using an instrument called an auriscope, also known as an otoscope. An auriscope is a small hand-held torch with a magnifying glass which allows the doctor to see the eardrum and the passageway that leads to it from the outer ear. It can be used to look for:

  • discharge – fluid coming out of the ear
  • a bulging eardrum – indicating that there is infected fluid in the middle ear
  • a retracted eardrum – indicating uninfected fluid in the middle ear (glue ear)
  • perforated eardrum – a hole in the eardrum, with or without signs of infection
  • ear wax or foreign bodies that might be blocking the ear

Your GP may also carry out simple tests using their voice to help determine the extent of your hearing loss. If there are any concerns, you or your child may be referred to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist for further tests.

Hearing tests in children

A range of different techniques are used to detect hearing problems. Some hearing tests are only used for children, including:

  • automated otoacoustic emissions (AOAE) tests – a computer attached to a small earpiece plays quiet clicking noises and measures the response from your child’s ear
  • automated auditory brainstem response (AABR) tests – sensors are placed on your child’s head and neck to check the response of their nerves to sound played through headphones
  • play audiometry tests – sounds of different volumes and frequencies are played to your child and they carry out a simple task when they hear them

Read more about how hearing and vision tests for children are carried out.

However, some tests, such as pure tone audiometry, speech perception and tympanometry (see below) can be used to test adults and well as children.

Hearing tests in adults

There are a number of different ways to test adult hearing. Some of these are briefly described below.

Pure tone audiometry

Pure tone audiometry (PTA) tests the hearing of both ears. During PTA, a machine called an audiometer is used to produce sounds at various volumes and frequencies (pitches). You listen to the sounds through headphones and respond when you hear them by pressing a button.

Speech perception

The speech perception test, also sometimes known as a speech discrimination test or speech audiometry, involves testing your ability to hear words without using any visual information. The words may be played through headphones or a speaker, or spoken by the tester.

Sometimes, you are asked to listen to words while there is a controlled level of background noise.

Tympanometry

The eardrum should allow as much sound as possible to pass into the middle ear. If sound is reflected back from the eardrum, hearing will be impaired.

During tympanometry, a small tube is placed at the entrance of your ear and air gently blown down it into the ear. The test can be used to confirm whether the ear is blocked, most commonly by fluid.

Whispered voice test

The whispered voice test is a very simple hearing test. It involves the tester blocking one of your ears and testing your hearing by whispering words at varying volumes. You will be asked to repeat the words out loud as you hear them.

Tuning fork test

A tuning fork produces sound waves at a fixed pitch when it is gently tapped and can be used to test different aspects of your hearing.

The tester will tap the tuning fork on their elbow or knee to make it vibrate, before holding it at different places around your head.

This test can help determine if you have conductive hearing loss, which is hearing loss caused by sounds not being able to pass freely into the inner ear, or sensori-neural hearing loss where the inner ear or hearing nerve is not working properly.

Bone conduction test

A bone conduction test is often carried out as part of a routine pure tone audiometry (PTA) test in adults.

Bone conduction involves placing a vibrating probe against the mastoid bone behind the ear. It tests how well sounds transmitted through the bone are heard.

Bone conduction is a more sophisticated version of the tuning fork test, and when used together with PTA, it can help determine whether hearing loss comes from the outer and middle ear, the inner ear, or both.

Published Date
2012-11-23 17:30:01Z
Last Review Date
2012-10-22 00:00:00Z
Next Review Date
2014-10-22 00:00:00Z
Classification
Ear,Ear, nose and throat specialists,Glue ear,Hearing impairment,Hearing loss,Hearing tests,Neonatal screening






 /conditions/articles/hearing-tests/when it should be done

Audiometry

When a hearing test is needed

Hearing tests are carried out regularly, particularly during childhood, to identify any problems as soon as possible.

In the past, many children born with a hearing impairment were not diagnosed until they were 18 months or older. However, identifying hearing loss late can have a negative impact on a child’s language development, social skills and self-confidence. If hearing problems are diagnosed early, appropriate support can be provided for the child and their family.

It is also important to identify hearing loss in adults early, as treatment is more likely to be effective the earlier problems are diagnosed.

Newborn Hearing Screening Programme (NHSP)

Around 1 in every 850 babies is born with some form of hearing loss and many of these can be identified with testing.

Newborn babies are now given a routine hearing test as part of the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme (NHSP).

It is not easy to identify hearing loss in babies who are too young to have a conventional hearing test, so screening uses an automated otoacoustic emissions (AOAE) test. This test is carried out within the first few weeks following birth. This enables some problems to be identified at an early stage. 

The test will either take place in the hospital maternity unit or in your home by a health visitor during a routine visit. If you are not offered a screening test for your baby, you should ask your midwife, health visitor or GP to arrange one.

See the NHSP website for more information about how newborn hearing tests are done.

Sometimes, premature babies pass this test but are still felt to be in a high-risk group for hearing loss. In these cases another hearing test is recommended for when they are between six and eight months old.

Later childhood tests

There will also be further opportunities to check your child’s hearing as they get older. For example:

  • a child may have their hearing checked as part of their general review when they are about two-and-a-half years old
  • all children have a hearing test when they are between four and five years old before they start school 
  • your GP can arrange for your child to have a hearing test at any age if you feel that their hearing is not right (see below)

The age at which routine tests or assessments are carried out may vary between different areas. Your GP or health visitor should be able to advise you.

Reporting problems to your GP

If you think your child may have a hearing problem, take them to see your GP as soon as possible. Hearing tests can be used at any time to help diagnose or rule out other health conditions. In some cases, hearing loss may be the cause of delayed speech and language development.

Many children who experience hearing problems turn out to have a very common and temporary condition called glue ear, in which mucus blocks the ear.

Less commonly, other explanations for a child apparently having hearing difficulties include behavioural problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Adult hearing tests

Adults can also request a hearing test from their GP if they are concered about their hearing. 

Hearing loss in old age is a common and usually gradual process. It often begins with difficulty hearing other people clearly, particularly when there is a lot of background noise. At first you may not realise that you have a hearing impairment. Other members of your family may be the first ones to notice that you have a problem.

However, there are other reasons why adults might lose their hearing, such as ear infections or prolonged exposure to excessive noise.

You should visit your GP if you experience hearing loss in one or both ears, or if you have:

  • tinnitus – ringing or buzzing in your ears
  • vertigo – dizziness or loss of balance
  • severe ear pain that lasts for more than 24 hours
  • discharge – fluid or blood coming out of the ear

You may also need to have a hearing test if you have a head injury, because it could damage your inner ear.

Older people with permanent hearing loss may benefit from having a hearing aid. If you have a hearing aid fitted, you will receive advice and support from your local audiology department, including advice about changing the battery, repairs and upgrades.

You are more likely to benefit from a hearing aid if your hearing loss is diagnosed early, so you should ask your GP to arrange a test for you if you are at all concerned about your hearing.

Published Date
2012-11-23 17:22:15Z
Last Review Date
2012-10-22 00:00:00Z
Next Review Date
2014-10-22 00:00:00Z
Classification
ADHD,Ear,Ear infections,Head injuries,Hearing impairment,Hearing tests,Neonatal screening,Tinnitus



































































Hearing tests 

Introduction 


Media last reviewed:

Next review due:

How the ear works

The ear is made up of the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear.

Sound enters the outer ear and passes down the ear canal to the eardrum (a thin layer of tissue that separates the outer ear from the middle ear). Sound makes the eardrum vibrate as it travels into the middle ear.

The middle ear is an air-filled cavity between the eardrum and the inner ear. It contains three tiny bones that pick up and carry the sound vibrations from the eardrum to the inner ear.

The inner ear contains the cochlea (a fluid-filled chamber that is responsible for hearing) and the vestibular system (the balance organ). Vibrations travel in the fluid of the inner ear and stimulate tiny nerve endings in the cochlea, which turn the vibrations into electrical signals that are fed along the auditory nerve to the brain.

Any problem with this process can result in hearing impairment, which may require a hearing test to diagnose the extent and type of deafness.

Hearing tests are used to assess your ability to hear different sounds and to determine if there are any problems.

Why are hearing tests needed?

Hearing tests are carried out for two main reasons:

  • as a routine part of a baby’s or young child’s developmental checks
  • to check the hearing of someone who is experiencing hearing problems or has a hearing impairment

It is important that hearing tests are carried out so that the right support and treatment can be provided.

Read more about why hearing tests are needed.

Hearing tests are carried out at regular intervals during childhood, starting with the new born hearing screening programme (NHSP) within a few weeks of birth.

Your child’s hearing may also be checked during a general health review when they are a few years old and before they start school for the first time.

If at any point you are worried about your or your child’s hearing, you can ask your GP for a hearing test.

Read more about when hearing tests are needed.

What happens during a hearing test?

Although your GP or practice nurse can examine your ears, you will usually be referred to a specialist for a hearing test.

A number of different tests are used to check how well the ears are functioning and their ability to detect different levels of sound.

Common hearing tests include:

  • automated otoacoustic emissions (AOAE) tests – a computer attached to an earpiece plays clicking noises and measures the response from the ear
  • automated auditory brainstem response (AABR) tests – sensors are placed on the head and neck to check the response of the nerves to sound played through headphones
  • pure tone audiometry tests – sounds of different volumes and frequencies are played and a button is pressed when they are heard
  • bone conduction tests – a vibrating sensor is placed behind the ear to test how well sound travels through the bones in the ear

The tests used generally differ between children and adults, but they are all completely painless.

The results of some of these tests are recorded on a graph called an audiogram, so that the type of hearing loss can be identified.

Read more about how hearing tests are carried out and hearing and vision tests for children.

Hearing problems

Your hearing may be affected if sounds don’t reach the inner ear efficiently. This is known as conductive hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss can be caused by problems such as a blockage in your ear canal (such as from ear wax) or in the middle ear (for example, glue ear). An infection of your outer ear (otitis externa) or middle ear (otitis media) may also be responsible. Hearing loss of this type is often temporary and reversible.

If sounds reach the inner ear but are still not heard, the fault lies in the inner ear or, rarely, in the hearing nerve. This is called sensori-neural hearing loss. Inner ear hearing loss may occur for a number of reasons, most commonly as a result of age-related change. Inner ear hearing loss is nearly always permanent.

Hearing tests are used to determine the type of hearing loss that you have.

Page last reviewed: 23/10/2012

Next review due: 23/10/2014

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Comments

The 4 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Granthamroy said on 25 June 2014

About 18 months ago I was fitted with a CROS Aid because I am totally deaf in my left ear, and quite deaf in my right. This aid is a tremendous help as now I hear sounds from my left side through my aid in my right ear.
I must admit it takes a while to get used to because you have no perception of direction of sound, but at least you hear all round.
Now I want to make an appointment to have the balance adjusted, so that the output from both sides is about the same. That will make it even more comfortable.
Than you for a better life.

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skj1 said on 15 April 2013

5 days ago i had a hearing test ive got tinnitus.

im new to this
even though i have a result which im happy with .
im still struggling to hear its worse since my test

tonght result
so i did test on the rnid it recommends hearing test
so do 4 other apps my lowest mark is 8k hz in high range at under the 40 db for left a a little higner about a with of tracing paper for the right

friday result
after my test it was off the chart very steep drop

when talking it feels like there a bag over my right ear
and listening to music is like its mono

when using my iPhone it was on volume 8 out of 16
im having a lot of trouble yet im suppose have ok hearing
what do i do

also there was no test to see how loud my tinnitus was

help

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ttolga said on 10 March 2013

i had a ear operation when i was in turkey and operation was not successfull about 14 years ago, and i got ear calcification that might reason drop down my hearing is there a any possible solution is there a any risk if i had a operation ,

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HCheck said on 12 August 2009

If you have concerns about your or any of your family members hearing, you can get them to do a free, quick, online hearing check via the charity RNID here:

www.rnid.org.uk/hearingcheckaug

This will let you know if their hearing is within the ‘normal’ range or not.

Hope it is helpful for some of you out there.

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