The First 3 Stages in Assessing Your Hearing Ability

Most people follow series of steps when first evaluating their hearing ability. Generally speaking, this includes:

  1. Trying an online hearing test which only takes a few minutes.
  2. If an online test detects a hearing loss, the next step is to book in for a free face-to-face hearing screening which takes about 30 minutes.
  3. Depending on your hearing screening results, you might require a full diagnostic hearing test which will take one hour.

There is, of course, more than one type of “hearing test”, and you can find out about most of them on this website and at our clinics in Auckland and Wellington.

1. Free Online Hearing Test

An online hearing test is often the first step in assessing your hearing ability. This type of test is only an indication of how well you hear.

Many factors can impact the accuracy of online hearing tests. As you can imagine, there are thousands of different variables to account for. Such as the style, quality and type of headphones used and the phone, tablet, laptop or other devices your headphones are connected to.

We have tried to account for those variables as much as possible by not creating our own test. Instead, we use a test developed by SHOEBOX, a company specialising in designing and developing many types of hearing tests.

woman taking an online hearing test on a tablet with headphones on

2. In-person Free Hearing Screening

If an online hearing test detects a hearing loss, the next step is to have a free in-person hearing assessment or “screening” in one of our Auckland or Wellington clinics. Only available for adults aged 18 years and over.

The hearing screening eliminates many of the variables present with an online hearing test. 

Purpose-built headphones connected to proprietary software are used in a quiet room with the assistance of a specially trained staff member or registered nurse.

The goal of the hearing screening is to help determine if a full diagnostic is recommended for you.

woman taking a free hearing screening in-person with a registered nurse

3. Full Diagnostic Hearing Test

A full diagnostic hearing test is much more thorough and takes about an hour. It includes a consultation, assessment and testing using special equipment by an audiologist.

During testing, you will be asked to sit in a specially designed sound booth. The sound booth is built to block any noise pollution from interfering with the hearing test. 

The test is not free, which is why the online hearing test and in-person hearing screening are recommended first to ensure you are not paying for something you might not need.

At the end of a full diagnostic hearing test, you will have an audiogram and an explanation of your hearing loss type and severity.

a person having a full diagnostic hearing test in a sound booth with an audiologist

Hearing Tests Are Available in Auckland and Wellington

Ear Health clinics in Auckland and Wellington where you can get a hearing test include:

  • Birkenhead
  • Grey Lynn
  • Devonport
  • Wellington Central

4 Simple Steps Involved in a Full Diagnostic Hearing Test

A full diagnostic hearing test can sound a little intimidating at first, but rest assured it’s a straightforward process for you to take part in. Especially under the care of our audiologists at Ear Health.

Perhaps you’re considering a hearing test but aren’t sure what it would involve. Or maybe you’ve made an appointment and are wondering what it’ll be like. Rest assured, it’s a gentle and easy test to do – and you may find it quite interesting. Here’s what’s involved.

Step 1: Just Do It!

On average, there’s a lag of about 7 years between the time when someone’s hearing begins to decline and the time when they finally get a hearing test. There’s often a reluctance to admit there might be a problem or a fear of having to wear a hearing aid. But there are consequences for delaying. 

Living with even mild hearing loss makes your brain work harder. It has to throw most of its resources into decoding sounds, neglecting other tasks like your working memory. Untreated hearing loss increases the risk of dementia and cognitive decline. It can also be difficult for your relationships and leave you socially isolated. 

If you’re showing signs of hearing loss, then it’s wise to get tested. Who knows, you might get a perfect hearing score and prove everyone wrong!

Step 2: Understand the Components of Sound

There are two components to sound: intensity (loudness) and frequency (pitch). 

A hearing test is designed to test your ability to hear sounds that range from quiet to loud and from a low pitch to a high one. Often people with mild hearing loss struggle to hear softer sounds. It’s usually the high-pitched sounds that are lost first, meaning you might easily hear men talking but not hear young children’s voices. 

Sounds are created by vibrations in the air molecules around us. Big vibrations create loud noises (measured in decibels or dB) while gentle vibrations result in quieter ones. The frequency of vibrations per second creates a sound’s pitch, measured in hertz (Hz). Fast vibrations create a high-frequency sound like a squeal or whistle. Slow vibrations create low-pitched sounds like a man’s deep voice or a rumble of thunder. 

Step 3: Which Hearing Tests Might You Take?

When you arrive at the clinic, you’ll be greeted by the receptionist and asked to wait until the audiologist is ready. When it’s your turn, one of our skilled and friendly audiologists will call you into a consultation room and get you ready for your test. There are a few different tests, and your audiologist will determine which are suitable for you. We’re happy to answer any questions you might have about which tests you take.

Pure Tone Audiometry

One of the most common is pure tone audiometry. An audiometer (special machine) produces a series of beeps and whistles (pure tones). When you hear the sound, you press a button. At the end of the test, a report shows how many of the different sounds you were able to hear, showing you whether you struggle with higher-pitched or quieter sounds. 

You can listen to those pure tones in a couple of ways. Wearing headphones allows the audiologist to test your air conduction hearing, seeing how your outer hearing pathway works with your inner ear. Alternatively, they might use a bone conductor, a little vibrator held behind your ear that measures how well your inner hearing pathways function. 

Speech Discrimination Test

The next type of test is a speech discrimination test. If you’ve ever had an eye test, you’ll know that some shapes and letters look similar when they’re blurry around the edges then become clearer as the right lens brings them into focus. It’s similar to sounds. Some speech sounds begin to blur, sounding so similar that you can’t tell the difference. You can hear the words easily but can’t distinguish between them. During a conversation, you might find it hard to understand words that begin or end with ‘s’, ‘f, ‘h’ or ‘th’. 

You’ll wear headphones for this test. The audiologist will make sure all the sounds are loud enough for you to hear. Then the audiologist will play one-syllable words that you might hear in normal conversation, such as ‘jar’ or ‘box’. When you hear the word, you repeat it to the audiologist. 

The speech discrimination test helps the audiologist decide whether or not a hearing aid would help you. If you get a high score on the speech discrimination test, your main hearing problem is with volume rather than distinguishing between sounds. A hearing aid can help boost the sounds. If you score low on the speech discrimination test, then a hearing aid may not be the best or only treatment since simply making the sounds louder doesn’t help distinguish between them.

Step 4: The Ultimate Goal Is to Hear Better

Your audiologist is able to interpret the results of your hearing test to determine whether you have any hearing loss and, if you do, what’s the best way of helping you hear better. 

There are many different treatments available, depending on the root cause of your hearing loss. Some are occasional minor procedures like microsuction to remove a blockage caused by impacted ear wax. Others involve the ongoing use of a device like a hearing aid or surgery to drain fluid or remove bony growths that may be affecting your hearing. 

Once you’ve started a course of treatment, we’ll invite you back for a review appointment to check how it’s going and make any adjustments that may be necessary. Once a patient is hearing well again, they often become aware of just how much they’ve been missing and tell us that they wish they’d come for a hearing test much sooner!

This page was written by Ron Trounson Charge Audiologist at Ear Health on:

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