Hearing tests are how healthcare providers determine if you have hearing loss. Hearing tests don’t require special preparation and don’t hurt. There are different kinds of hearing tests that use different techniques to identify hearing loss. Hearing tests may be screenings to see if you can hear or evaluations to find out if you have hearing issues.
Hearing tests are how healthcare providers determine if you have hearing loss. You may have several hearing tests in your lifetime. Babies and children in the U.S. have hearing screening tests. Experts estimate that more than 30 million Americans age 18 and older have some trouble hearing. Hearing tests are how people can find out if they have hearing loss. There are different kinds of hearing tests that use different techniques to identify hearing loss. One common test uses audiometry and the audiogram to identify hearing loss and show test results. Hearing tests don’t require special preparation and don’t hurt.
Hearing tests may be hearing screenings or hearing evaluations. If you have a hearing screening, you’re having a test to see if you have normal hearing. If you fail a hearing screening, you should then have a full hearing evaluation or audiologic evaluation. Audiologists do hearing evaluations to learn the type of hearing loss you have and if your hearing loss is mild, moderate or severe.
Most people in the U.S. will have a hearing screening or hearing evaluation during their lifetime. Babies born in the U.S. usually have hearing screenings right after they’re born. Children may have hearing screenings as part of their well-child appointments or at school. They may have hearing tests if they appear to have trouble hearing. Most adults have hearing tests because they’re having trouble hearing or because people around them notice they’re having trouble hearing.
That depends on your situation. For example, if your job is in a noisy work environment, you may need your hearing checked once a year. If you don’t, you may not need a hearing evaluation until you’re in your 50s or 60s. That’s when many people start having age-related hearing loss. If you think you’re having trouble hearing, ask a healthcare provider about hearing evaluations. They may refer you to an audiologist for a formal hearing evaluation.
There are several types of hearing tests. Some tests are typically used to check adults’ hearing and others are used for babies, children and adults. Hearing test types include:
Healthcare providers may do hearing screenings. Audiologists do hearing tests.
There are many at-home hearing tests for you to consider. At-home tests may indicate you have hearing issues. To find out what’s wrong — and to get help — you should have a hearing evaluation done by an audiologist.
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There are several kinds of hearing tests, from tests to see how well you hear to tests to see if you have something blocking your ear.
This is the most common hearing test. Here’s how it works:
Audiologists use this test to determine if there’s wax or fluid buildup that may be blocking your middle or outer ear, or if hearing loss is present in the sensory cells of the hearing organ. The test also shows the audiologist how well you hear.
Your audiologist may do a speech test along with a pure-tone test. Speech tests evaluate your ability to listen to words and repeat them.
This test checks the connections or pathways between your inner ear and brain. Unlike a pure-tone test, you don’t need to respond to sounds. You do need to stay still during the test.
This test checks your inner ear function. It does that by measuring otoacoustic emissions (OAEs). OAEs are sounds your inner ear produces when it responds to sound. (Recall that sound starts in your outer ear and travels through your middle, then your inner ear.) Tiny hair cells in your inner ear vibrate when sound waves hit them. The hair cell vibrations make a very quiet sound that echoes in your middle ear. That’s the sound OAEs measure. If you have hearing loss, your inner ear won’t produce OAEs.
Your eardrum is a flexible barrier that separates your outer ear from your middle ear. When sound from your outer ear hits your eardrum, your eardrum vibrates. Those vibrations travel through your middle and inner ear, triggering signals that go to your brain. Your brain translates those signals into sound. Tympanometry shows if your eardrum responds to air pushed into your ear.
In general, your audiologist will share your test results with you right away.
That depends on your situation. For example, if one of the tests shows wax or fluid blocking your middle ear, they may refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist to remove the wax or fluid. Or if your pure-tone hearing test shows you have hearing loss, your audiologist will tell you:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Hearing tests are how you find out if you have hearing loss. If you do, you’re not alone. More than 30 million people in the U.S. report they have some trouble hearing. The most common type of hearing loss happens over time. You may not notice you’re losing your hearing, but you may realize you can’t understand what people are saying. A hearing test done by an audiologist is the best way to find out if you have hearing loss. If you’re concerned about your ability to hear, ask a primary care provider if they can recommend an audiologist to help you.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/30/2022.
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