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Audiometry

(Hearing Assessment; Hearing Test; Audiology; Audiography)

Definition

Audiometry is a test that measures how well a person can hear. It is done by an audiologist. This is a person who is trained to identify and help manage hearing problems.
Inner Ear
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Reasons for Test

This test is done to detect or monitor hearing loss.

Possible Complications

This test does not cause problems for most people.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

The audiologist may meet with you to ask questions about:
  • Hearing problems
  • Balance problems
  • Problems with speech and language
  • Personal and family health history, including things like frequent ear infections or ringing in the ears
The audiologist may look at the inside and outside of your ears before the test.

Description of Test

For Adults and Older Children
Pure Tone Audiometry
This test usually takes place in a soundproof booth. You will put on headphones that are connected to an audiometer. This device sends sounds of different volumes and pitches to one ear at a time. You will be asked to respond each time you hear a sound. You may be asked to respond by raising your hand.
You may also be asked to wear a special instrument called a bone oscillator. It is worn behind each ear. The device sends sounds as vibrations directly to the inner ear. You will again be asked to respond each time you hear a sound.
Speech Audiometry
You will wear special headphones. You will hear simple, 2-syllable words. Words will be sent to one ear at a time at different volume levels. You will be asked to repeat each word or point to a picture.
Impedance Audiometry (Tympanometry)
A probe is inserted into your ear. The device changes the air pressure in your ear and makes sounds. The test measures how much your eardrum moves in response to the air pressure change and the sounds. It can help find out how well the middle ear is working and if there is fluid in it.
For Infants and Toddlers
Behavioral Audiometry
Babies are watched to see how they react to certain sounds.
Visual Reinforcement Audiometry
Children are taught to look toward the source of a sound.
Conditioned Play Audiometry
Older children are given a fun version of the pure tone audiometry test. Sounds of varying volume and pitch are sent through headphones to one ear at a time. Children are asked to do something with a toy each time they hear a sound. They may be asked to drop a block in a bucket.
Newborns and young infants may have brain stem auditory response testing. A sound is sent through headphones to one ear at a time. The response is measured using electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings over the auditory cortex.

After Test

Test results are recorded on an audiogram. This is a chart or graph that shows the softest sounds the person can hear. The audiologist will explain the test results.

How Long Will It Take?

Testing times vary. A first screening may take only 5 to 10 minutes. A more detailed hearing test may take up to an hour.

Will It Hurt?

These tests do not cause pain.

Results

Your doctor will talk to you about treatment options for any hearing problems that may be found through testing.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you have:
  • Lasting or severe lightheadedness
  • More hearing loss
  • Pain
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES

American Academy of Audiology
https://www.audiology.org
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
https://www.asha.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Academy of Audiology
https://canadianaudiology.ca
Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

References

Hearing assistive technology. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: https://www.asha.org/public/hearing/treatment/assist%5Ftech.htm. Accessed December 2, 2020.
Hearing screening and testing. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: https://www.asha.org/public/hearing/hearing-testing. Accessed December 2, 2020.
Otitis media with effusion (OME). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/otitis-media-with-effusion-ome. Accessed December 2, 2020.
Schilder AG, Chonmaitree T, et al. Otitis media. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2016 Sep 8;2:16063.
Types of hearing tests. Cincinnati Children’s website. Available at: https://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/h/hearing-tests. Accessed December 2, 2020.
What is an audiogram? Baby Hearing—Boys Town National Research Hospital website. Available at: https://www.babyhearing.org/what-is-an-audiogram. Accessed December 2, 2020.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2020
  • Update Date: 04/16/2021