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Hearing Tests: About These Tests

Parts of the ear

What are they?

Hearing tests check how well you can hear. There are many types of hearing tests. If your doctor thinks that you might have hearing loss, he or she may refer you to a hearing specialist (audiologist) to do hearing tests.

Why are these tests done?

You may have hearing tests because you think you have hearing loss or you have ringing in your ears. Your doctor might want to find the type of hearing loss you have and see how bad it is.

How do you prepare for the test?

  • Avoid loud noises for 16 hours before you have a thorough hearing test.
  • Tell your doctor if you take or have taken antibiotics that can damage hearing, such as gentamicin.

How are the tests done?

Before the test

Before you start any hearing tests, your ear canals may be checked for earwax. Wax can affect how well you hear. Any hardened wax may be removed.

If you wear hearing aids, you may be asked to remove them for some of the tests.

Tuning fork tests

Your doctor strikes the tuning fork to make it vibrate and produce a tone. Sometimes the tuning fork will be placed on your head or behind your ear.

Pure tone audiometry

A machine called an audiometer plays a series of tones through headphones. The tones change in pitch and loudness. Your doctor will reduce the loudness of a tone until you can no longer hear it. Then the tone will get louder until you can hear it again. If you can hear the tone, you signal by raising your hand or pressing a button.

The headphones will then be removed. A special vibrating device will be placed on the bone behind your ear. Again, you will signal each time you hear a tone.

Speech reception and word recognition tests

In these tests, you hear a series of simple words spoken with different degrees of loudness. You are asked to repeat the words. Your doctor measures the level at which you can no longer hear the words well enough to repeat them.

Auditory brain stem response (ABR) testing

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.

How long do the tests take?

  • The tests usually take about 1 hour.

What happens after these tests?

  • You will probably be able to go home right away.
  • You can go back to your usual activities right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

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