According to the CDC, around 16% of Americans experience hearing trouble, with tinnitus present in more than 25 million Americans. Hearing loss is the US’s third most common chronic physical condition, and can be a major impediment to your life – and livelihood – if it develops in you. Have you noticed a change in your hearing lately? Or do you think you might just be overdue for a hearing test? Here’s what you need to know about hearing tests and how to get one.
Do I Need a Hearing Test?
If you’ve noticed any changes to your hearing at all in the last 6 months, that could well be reason enough to find a hearing care specialist. These changes might manifest as something innocuous; maybe you’re finding it harder to pick out voices in a crowd, or asking people to repeat themselves more often in conversation. Or maybe you’ve noticed something a little more drastic: a persistent hum in your ears that you notice before bed, or a ringing sound that happens after a loud noise, and doesn’t dissipate for hours. These could be signs of tinnitus and should be investigated. Of course, you don’t need a specific reason to get a hearing test. You can bundle one up into your yearly physical, just to see what state your hearing is in, or you can get private hearing tests separately if you don’t need anything else checked out at the moment.
What Kind of Hearing Tests Are There?
The most common kind of hearing test you’ll come across is simply called a hearing screening, whereby your doctor ascertains how well you can hear different sounds and if you’ll need further testing at all. Some screenings are more involved than others and might involve an audiometry test where you wear noise-canceling headphones and identify tones you can hear at different volumes – though this is more of a diagnostic tool for discovering the extent of your hearing loss.
In the event you do exhibit signs of hearing damage or loss, you’ll be moved on to further testing, or forwarded to a specialist who can carry out more involved exams on you. The most common of these would be the otoscopy test, where a doctor examines your ear canal for the build-up of wax or other obstructions and checks the health of your eardrum.
If the cause of your hearing damage isn’t ascertained by examination of the ear itself, you may be recommended for an Auditory Brainstem Response, or ABR, test – which can sound stressful but does not even require you to be awake to complete. Electrodes are attached to your head in order to measure your brain’s response to sounds and find out if your neural pathways are the source of your hearing loss. Tinnitus originates in the nerves, and can be caused by trauma and shock unrelated to hearing injuries
What Do I Need to Prepare for a Hearing Test?
In short: nothing! All you need to do is book an appointment with your doctor or hearing specialist to find out if there is anything to your hearing complaints, and everything will be taken from there. None of the tests outlined above require any prior preparation, apart from dispelling pre-doctor nerves you might already experience.