Hearing loss usually is often gradual, so you may not notice it at first. But if it appears that it’s more difficult to hear the TV, if you find you’re asking friends and family to repeat themselves or if you have trouble hearing in moderately noisy places, you may have some hearing loss. Audiologists use hearing tests to determine the degree of loss and how best to treat it.

Preparing for a hearing test

There’s not a lot to do to prepare for a hearing test. Once you have your appointment, there are just a few things preparations. First, write down any symptoms you may be experiencing. Also outline any exposure to loud noises, your work history and your medical history. Write down any questions you want to ask and it’s a good idea to bring along a friend or family member to help take notes and provide support.

Types of tests

In adults, the audiologist performs several types of tests, starting with a physical examination of your ears. This is a check for any structural problems, an earwax blockage or an infection.

The next set of exams involves physically testing your hearing. These may include pure-tone testing (audiometry), speech testing and tuning fork testing. Pure-tone testing checks for volume and pitch responses. You are in a soundproof room and wear headphones and signal when you hear a sound and in which ear you hear it. Speech testing checks how well you hear words that are whispered or spoken softly. The tuning fork test helps determine if there are problems with sound conduction. A tuning fork is placed near your ear, tapped and you note if the sound is louder in one ear or the other and when it fades.

For children, hearing tests depend upon their age and how well they communicate. Infants have their hearing tested with a couple of exams prior to leaving the hospital. Toddlers may have an audiometry test. Children with frequent ear infections may have other tests to determine if there is an infection or an injury to the eardrum.

Hearing loss treatments

Sometimes hearing loss is simply due to earwax blocking the ear canal. The audiologist can remove the blockage and suggest any further treatment. Hearing aids are perhaps the most common treatment for hearing loss. If your hearing tests results indicate you would be helped with hearing aids, your audiologist will discuss it with you at this appointment. Surgery sometimes is necessary, particularly in the case of an ear injury or numerous infections. For severe hearing loss, a cochlear implant may be considered.

Hearing tests are a painless and important part of your medical wellbeing. If you haven’t had your hearing tested in decades or are over 55, consider making an appointment with your audiologist for a baseline test. As you age, these early results will assist your audiologist in evaluating any hearing loss.