What to Expect at Your First Hearing Test
If you suspect you may have hearing loss the best thing you can do for yourself is schedule an appointment with a hearing health professional to have your hearing tested. It's painless, takes only an hour of your time, and in many cases it is free. When you reach the age of 50 it is recommended that you get your hearing tested once per year, this is when age-related hearing loss starts to become noticeable.
All good hearing specialists will follow the same basic regimen during your first appointment, including gathering your health history and conducting a series of tests to see how well you hear a variety of tones and speech.
The appointment will begin with your health history to determine if you have a family history of hearing problems, or any experiences in your life that could affect your hearing such as chronic loud noise or frequent ear infections as a child. The hearing specialist will also ask about any medications your take. This is important because a number of common medicines are ototoxic, meaning they are harmful to your ears.
Next the hearing specialist will visually examine your ears using an otoscope. This lighted device magnifies your inner ear. Many hearing specialists now use a video otoscope so that you take a closer look at your ear canal on a large video screen while your specialist explains what they are looking at. They will be checking for obstructions (like earwax), infections or other medical conditions that could affect hearing. If they determine there is no medical reason for hearing loss, the hearing specialist will move on to testing for specific tones and speech recognition through an air conduction test, a bone conduction test and a speech test. Your responses to the air and bone conduction test will be plotted on an audiogram.
An audiogram is basically a chart that shows the degree (mild, moderate, severe, profound) and type (conductive, sensorneural, and mixed) of hearing loss you have. The speech test is used to help determine the type of hearing aids that will help your hearing loss.
Like most medical testing the experience can be overwhelming and the test results can be hard to understand. Your hearing specialist should make you feel comfortable and explain what is happening every step of the way.
The following list of questions may be helpful in gathering information and getting clear answers so you can best understand your hearing test results.
- What kind of hearing loss do I have?
- Is it medically treatable?
- Are their specific frequencies or types of sound I have more trouble with than others?
- Will I receive a copy of my audiogram and other test results?
- What are my treatment options?
- Is there anything I can do on my own to hear better?
- Can I prevent further hearing loss?
If your hearing test shows that you can be helped by hearing aids you should not feel pressured to buy the same day. Some hearing specialists will offer to demonstrate different types of hearing aid technology that may work with your hearing loss. Don't hesitate to ask more questions to make sure you fully understand the results of your hearing test and the options presented to you.