Let’s delve a bit deeper into the kinds of things that people can expect to “hear” during a hearing test. As we have mentioned in past blogs, hearing tests vary, depending on the needs of a patient. Because we don’t force everyone through a standardized, rigid test, people experience different things when they come in for a check.
Every hearing test starts with a series of beeps and tones. The beeps and tones are in different frequencies or pitches, with some low and deep and others high-pitched and squealing. People who listen to these tones hear more or fewer of them, depending on their ability. Their responses paint a picture of their general hearing ability.
Depending on the level of loss seen in the first test, two other tests can be used. One involves a secondary set of beeps and tones that is presented not directly to the ear, but behind the ear, through the skull, which encases our hearing system. By testing directly to the skull through the inner ear, we can find out whether there is a difference between hearing that way and hearing through the ear canal. If there is a significant difference, it could indicate that a person needs medical attention for an undiagnosed ear infection, or has wax or something blocking their hearing system, and needs attention. Tests like this allow us to ensure that a person gets the necessary medical attention and is only recommended a hearing aid if they actually need one.
We then do a verification test, which is fairly standard in our industry, asking the person to repeat certain words. Once or twice in thirteen years, we have had a person try to fake a test, for attention or some other reason, but that is truly an exception.
Most of our tests involve average to faint tones. We test for the softest sound that a person can hear, which establishes their hearing threshold. Another test that we do checks patients’ tolerance for loud sounds. In that test, we start with comfortable tones that get louder and louder, to measure the loudest sound that a person can reasonably tolerate, which is the ceiling of their hearing. Between the threshold and the ceiling lies a person’s range of hearing.
It is important for us to understand where this lies, especially if a person has enough hearing loss to require a hearing aid. We want to elevate the faint sounds that they have trouble with, but protect them from having the hearing aid over-amplify things.
A third series of tests that we do are speech-related and aim to find the most comfortable volume for a person and determine, at that volume, how well their ear understands words. If their ear does not transfer sound correctly to the brain, for example, the word “sixty” may sound like “fifty,” which can be a sore point in situations involving calculations or prices.
Once we determine a person’s range of hearing, their most comfortable level of hearing, and their ears’ ability to transmit messages to their brain, we have a strong picture of what their ability to hear will be with a hearing aid. We then have to consider their chances of success with a hearing aid, keeping in mind the challenges that they may face and considering the assistive devices, counselling, or advice that we can offer them to help them satisfy their communication needs.
While the above are our main tests, we use several others if red flags indicate something more serious might be happening, as some medical problems lead to hearing loss or unpredictable hearing, including worst case scenarios such as tumours. Additional tests could involve different types of tone or word testing, or tests that don’t require a person to respond. We also use equipment to check inside the ear, measuring things such as ear and eardrum response, to find out what’s going on from another angle.
In a full-spectrum test, a person might experience all or most of these evaluations, which would give us a very accurate picture of their hearing system, their hearing health, and the type of hearing aids that might be best for them.
When we test a person’s hearing, our greatest hope is that we will be surprised to find that the person hears normally. If a person does not have enough hearing loss to require a hearing aid, we are happy to be the first ones to tell them that.
We’re not in the business of selling things that people don’t need. We want to help you find a solution that will meet your needs and allow you to fully communicate and interact normally in your environment. We hope to help you do the things that you want to do and go the places that you want to go, and to enjoy life again.
If you want to know more about Beltone Hearing Centres and how we can help you, visit www.askbeltone.com. As always, please feel free to share this information with those who could benefit from it.