According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), you should test your hearing at least once every 10 years up to the age of 50. ASHA recommends that you check your hearing every three years after the age of 50.
Many people may not realize that they are suffering from hearing loss, especially in the case of slight or mild hearing loss. Older adults, in particular, have a greater risk of developing hearing loss.
Regular hearing screenings will help track your hearing and determine when you need further hearing support.
If you are interested in learning about hearing tests, this article will help provide you with the answers you are looking for. It will focus on answering questions about how to test your hearing, the cost of hearing tests, and online hearing tests.
How to Check Your Hearing?
To test your hearing, consult an audiologist who will comprehensively assess your hearing ability to identify the presence, type, and severity of hearing loss. You can start by visiting your primary health care physician and asking for an ear examination before consulting with an audiologist.
If you want to check your hearing, begin with your primary health care physician. A physical examination of your ear will reveal the presence of an ear infection or too much ear wax.
In the case of an ear infection or excessive earwax, consult an audiologist for an audiogram test. Choose a licensed audiologist with a Doctoral Degree in Audiology (AuD).
A comprehensive hearing examination consists of the following.
The audiologist will ask you any of the following questions regarding your hearing difficulty during your first visit.
- What problems have you noticed with your hearing?
- How long have you had difficulty hearing ?
- Did you experience hearing difficulties gradually or all of a sudden?
- Do you have hearing problems in both ears or just one ear?
- Have you experienced ringing in the ears?
- Do you have frequent ear infections, ear discharge, or ear pain?
- Do you often ask people to repeat what they said?
- Do you understand speech in the presence of background noise?
- Do you have exposure to loud noises in your workplace?
In the case of children, the audiologist will include questions about learning difficulties, health history, and speech and language development.
Provide clear answers to all the questions and report even the slightest problem you may be experiencing with your hearing.
After collecting your medical history, the audiologist will perform an otoscopy.
An otoscopy is the visual examination of your ear structures, namely the ear canal and the eardrum.
The audiologist will use a tool called an otoscope with a light on the end to determine the presence of excessive ear wax or any foreign body in the ear canal.
An otoscopy is an important procedure in a hearing evaluation because any blockage in the ear canal can affect the sound transmission, which can lead to hearing loss.
Test of the Middle Ear
The audiologist will run a test called tympanometry to assess the movement of your eardrum. A device that pushes air will be inserted into your ear to do this test.
The audiologist will interpret the resulting graph to understand how well your eardrum moves, and whether it is too flexible or too stiff. This information is crucial in determining if you have middle ear fluid, Eustachian tube dysfunction, or a hole in the eardrum.
Assessment of Hearing Threshold
A behavioral test called Pure Tone Audiometry is used to determine your auditory threshold and the type and severity of your hearing loss. It is considered the “gold standard” of hearing assessment.
Pure tone audiometry is performed in a soundproof room. For this test, tones of different frequencies and volumes are presented.
You must wear headphones and signal to the tester (by raising your hand or pressing a button) whenever you hear a sound. The sound level below which you are unable to hear is your hearing threshold.
The range for normal hearing is 0 to 15 dB. If your hearing threshold is greater than 15 dB, you have hearing loss. According to ASHA, the degree of hearing loss can range from slight (16 to 25 dB) to profound (91+ dB).
Assessment of Speech Threshold
While Pure Tone Audiometry helps evaluate your hearing ability, Speech Audiometry is equally important in assessing your ability to understand speech.
Speech audiometry primarily involves two tests. The first measures the minimum loudness of speech at which you can identify the presence of speech. The second measures the minimum loudness level at which you can clearly understand speech.
Speech audiometry also provides information on tolerance to speech stimuli. This information is important in setting the output of hearing aids if you need them.
Results and Recommendations
Once testing is over, the audiologist will explain the results obtained. If the presence of hearing loss is identified, the audiologist will recommend the use of hearing aids based on the following types of hearing loss:
When to Check Your Hearing
People often underestimate their hearing loss. They may not even realize that they have hearing loss. Mentioned below are the most common signs that it is time to test your hearing.
- You often ask people to repeat what they said.
- You watch television at a louder volume than your family members.
- You find it difficult to understand speech in background noise, such as in restaurants, metro stations, and parties.
- You often strain yourself to hear conversations on the phone.
- People often tell you that you have trouble hearing.
If you have experienced any or all of the above signs, consult an audiologist to find out how your hearing is doing.
How Much Do Hearing Tests Cost?
A standard hearing test typically costs $60, provided your medical insurance covers hearing exams. The price can vary by clinic, practitioner, and insurance company.
If you do not have insurance, a comprehensive hearing exam can cost as much as $250.
Before taking a hearing test, check with your insurance company to find out the copay and deductible for a hearing check-up.
Copays for office visits in most insurance companies range from $5 and $75, with the average covering $19.
If hearing loss is detected and the audiologist recommends a hearing aid, you can try various hearing aids to see which suits you best. The cost of hearing aids ranges from $1000 to $6000, depending on the hearing aid company and the available features.
Online Hearing Aid Tests
While an online hearing aid test may seem convenient, it is not always the wisest choice. Online test results are not as reliable or accurate.
To choose the right hearing aid, you have to know the exact type and severity of your hearing loss. For this, a comprehensive hearing evaluation by an audiologist is necessary.
Once the audiologist determines your hearing ability, you will be recommended hearing aids if you have hearing loss. There are different types of hearing aids. In clinics, hearing aids will be available to try before purchasing, such as in-the-canal hearing aids and behind-the-ear hearing aids.
Once you select a type of hearing aid, the audiologist will program the output of the hearing aid based on the severity of your hearing loss. You can wear this hearing aid and see whether the environmental sounds and speech are audible for your liking.
As such, if hearing aid trials and tests are of interest, the best option is to visit an audiology clinic. However, you can do online research for hearing aid styles, their prices, and their advantages and disadvantages.
How to Do a Test for Hearing Loss
The main hearing test, called Pure Tone Audiometry, is conducted in a soundproof room.
The audiologist will present tones of different volumes and frequencies to one ear at a time. You will hear the sounds through headphones or speakers. You will be asked to signal to the audiologist by raising your hand or pressing a button whenever you hear a sound.
The other hearing tests are objective, meaning they do not require your cooperation. Tests like Tympanometry, and Otoacoustic Emission (OAE) diagnose middle ear problems and inner ear (cochlea) damage, respectively. All you have to do for these tests is sit still.
How to Get a Hearing Test
If you need a hearing test, consult a licensed audiologist with a Doctoral Degree in Audiology (AuD).
Ask your friends, your family doctor, or a primary health care physician to recommend an audiologist. You can also go to the American Academy of Audiology website and search “find an audiologist.”
An audiologist who works with different hearing aid brands can provide you with many hearing aid options from which to choose.
Keep in mind that audiologists are different than hearing aid dispensers. Rather than going straight to a hearing aid company to check your hearing, it is advised to consult a licensed audiologist for a full audiological evaluation.
If you do not need a full hearing check-up, you can take a hearing screening test. A screening test result will either be a “pass” or “fail”. This means that if you pass, you do not have hearing loss. However, if you fail the test, you will be referred to an audiologist for a comprehensive hearing evaluation.
Online Hearing Tests
If you want to take a self-hearing test, pick any online website providing hearing tests.
Some websites offer free hearing tests, such as Resound. You can take this free online hearing test to get an idea of your hearing ability.
Take the test in a quiet place. Use speakers or headphones. Headphones are recommended over speakers as headphones will give you ear-specific results. If you are a hearing aid user, remove your hearing aid prior to the test.
Set the volume at a comfortable level and start the test.
During the test, you will hear a set of words followed by numbers. You will have to click on the screen, the corresponding word or number you heard. If you miss a word, you can replay the stimulus. The test will also measure your hearing ability in the presence of background noise.
Remember that online test results are not reliable and it is always advised to consult an audiologist to test your ears.
NIDCD reports that 1 in 8 people in the United States, aged 12 years or older, have bilateral hearing loss. Statistics also report that 25% of adults aged 65 to 74, and 50% of adults aged 75 and older, have disabling hearing loss.
Hearing aid technology has advanced significantly over the past few years. The use of amplification devices can rapidly improve the quality of life for individuals with hearing loss.
Therefore, it is advised to monitor your hearing ability regularly. If you suspect hearing loss, consult a hearing care professional for a comprehensive audiological evaluation.