How Do Hearing Tests Work?


Unlike social studies quizzes, there are no multiple-choice answers in a hearing test. You can’t get lucky and guess your way to a passing grade! But if you’re one of the approximately 20 percent of Plano residents experiencing hearing loss, you’ll need to undergo hearing testing in order to come up with a treatment solution.

October is National Audiology Awareness Month, an opportunity for your Plano audiologist to spread the word about the audiology profession and help you prevent hearing loss. We’re taking the opportunity to let you know how hearing tests work.

Hearing Tests, as in, Plural

Hearing test

If your audiologist suspects hearing loss, you will be given a hearing evaluation, which consists of a series of individual hearing tests. The ear consists of three parts (the outer, middle, and inner ear); because damage can occur in any of these sections, and treatment differs based on which part of the ear is affected, multiple hearing tests are usually necessary as each focuses on a specific and separate part of the ear.

Hearing tests are quick, easy, safe, and painless. They are usually administered in a soundproof booth and the results – which are plotted on a chart called an audiogram – will indicate your hearing ability at different frequencies, enabling your audiologist to determine the type and degree of your hearing loss.

Common Hearing Tests

The most common hearing tests administered in Plano to assess your hearing loss are described below.

  • Air Conduction Test. Sometimes referred to as pure tone audiometry, this test requires you to wear headphones and raise a hand, push a button, or give a verbal answer in response to tones of different volumes and frequencies. Your responses determine how well you can hear at various frequencies, an indication of whether your outer, middle, or inner ear is damaged.
  • Bone Conduction Test. Bone conduction testing is similar to the air conduction test, but instead of wearing headphones, a small device is placed behind your ears that emits vibrations designed to stimulate your cochlea. Your response indicates how well sound is able to travel through your ears.
  • Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR). In an ABR test, electrodes are attached to your head, scalp or earlobes. A series of clicking noises is sent through headphones you’ll be waring, and the electrodes measure brainwave activity in response to these sounds. ABR testing is designed primarily to measure hearing loss occurring in the inner ear.
  • Speech Testing. Speech testing, sometimes called word recognition testing, measures your speech reception abilities. You will be given different words and phrases at varying volume levels and asked to repeat them back to your tester. Testing is administered in both quiet and noisy backgrounds.
  • Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs). OAE testing involves a probe containing a microphone and speaker that is placed inside your ear canal. Sound is generated; this should stimulate the hair cells of the inner ear to vibrate in response, producing their own faint sound. If hearing loss exceeds 25-30 decibels, no otoacoustic emissions will be produced.

If you have any questions about hearing tests, your Plano audiologist will be happy to discuss them in further detail.