Ears are one of the most important sensory organs in the human body. They are not only chiefly responsible for hearing and providing clarity in receiving sound waves but also bringing about a sense of balance. But when they are not functioning properly, one may experience a host of issues right from hearing loss, loss of balance, cognitive decline, delay in speech and communication and more. Hence, it is extremely important to get them examined once in a while and not wait for the time when you feel some problem in hearing or pain within the ears.
So, What Is Audiometry Test?
Also known as Hearing Test in common terms, this is a painless, non-invasive diagnostic test that determines how well your ear functions and your ability to hear different sounds, pitches, or frequencies. Additionally, it also tests both the intensity and the tone of sounds, balance issues, and other issues related to the function of the inner ear. It even measures the softest, or least audible, sound that a person can hear.
Why Is It Performed?
An Audiometry test is generally performed as a routine screen of the ear functions or when you are suffering from slight hearing loss. It chiefly helps to detect whether you have sensorineural hearing loss (i.e., damage to the nerve or cochlea) or conductive hearing loss (i.e., damage to the eardrum or the tiny ossicle bones). Not only does it help in measuring the softest, or least audible, sound but also helps in detecting issues with balance or analyze infection or injuries to the inner ear.
One should go for an audiometry test if he or she is experiencing certain degree of hearing loss which can be due to the following causes:
- Birth defects
- Chronic ear infections
- Inner ear diseases, such as Ménière’s disease or an autoimmune disease that affect the inner ear
- Exposure to loud, high frequency noises on a daily basis like lawn mowing, shooting gun etc.
- Rupture in the eardrum
- Hereditary or inherited conditions, such as otosclerosis
- Injury to the ear
- Intake of certain medications
- Getting hit on the head
- Accumulation of excess ear wax
How Is The Test Performed?
The audiologist usually examines your hearing abilities by performing simple tests. These include a list of questionnaires and listening to whispered voices, tuning forks, or tones from an ear examination scope.
A special tuning fork is used to conduct the test and determine the specific type of hearing loss. It is usually tapped and placed near each ear to test the ability of hearing via air conduction. It also tapped and held against the bone behind each ear (i.e., the mastoid bone) to test bone conduction.
What Are The Types Of Audiometry Test?
The Audiometry Test usually consists of three main types:
Pure Tone Testing: Also known as Audiogram, this test primarily measures the softest, or least audible, sound of different pitches that a person can hear. It mainly involves using an audiometer, which is a machine that plays sounds via headphones. The test also includes placing a device called a bone oscillator against the mastoid bone to test bone conduction. During the test, the minimum volume required to hear each tone is graphed.
Speech Audiometry: Also termed as Speech Discrimination test, this chiefly measure the ability to distinguish speech from background noise. It also analyzes your ability to detect and repeat spoken words at different volumes heard through a head set. If the outcome of your speech discrimination test is poor, you may hear garbled speeches.
Immittance Audiometry: Also known as Tympanometry test, this test commonly measures the function of the ear drum and the flow of sound through the middle ear and thereby helps in detecting the problems related to perforated eardrum, fluid/wax buildup, ossicle bone damage, or tumors in the middle ear.
How Does The Test Feel?
Being a non-invasive diagnostic, there is no discomfort during the test. The length of time usually varies depending upon the extent of hearing loss. While an initial screening may take about 5 to 10 minutes, a detailed audiometry may take about an hour.
How To Interpret The Results?
The results are considered normal if the person has the ability to hear a whisper, a normal speech, and a ticking watch. It is also considered normal if the person has the ability to hear a tuning fork through ear. In detailed audiometry, a hearing test is usually considered normal if you can hear tones ranging from 250 to 8,000 Hz at 25 dB or lower.
There are many types and degrees of hearing loss. While, in some you only lose the ability to hear high or low tones, others you lose only air or bone conduction. The inability to hear pure tones below 25 dB indicates some type of hearing loss.
The test results may come inconclusive or produce different results if you are already suffering from the following conditions:
- Abnormal bone growth in the middle ear, called otosclerosis
- Ruptured or perforated eardrum
- Meniere disease
- Acoustic neuroma
- Acoustic trauma
- Age-related hearing loss
- Alport syndrome
- Chronic ear infections like otomycosis
After completion of the test, depending upon the test reports which details on the amount and type of hearing loss, the doctor chiefly suggests for any preventive measures such as wearing specialized ear plugs while working and being near loud noises or correcting measures such wearing a hearing aid all the time to improve the hearing abilities.