(Hearing Assessment; Hearing Test; Audiology; Audiography)
Audiometry is a test that measures how well you can hear. This test is performed by an audiologist. An audiologist is a person trained to identify and help manage hearing problems.
Reasons for Test
This test is done to detect or monitor hearing loss.
There are no major complications associated with this procedure.
What to Expect
Prior to Test
Your audiologist may ask you:
- When your hearing difficulty began
- If it affects one ear or both ears
- If you hear ringing in your ears
- If you have ever had pain or discomfort in your ears
- If there has been any recent drainage from your ears
- If you have ever had ear infections
- If you have ever had an ear injury
- If you have ever had ear surgery
- If you ever have dizziness
- If there is a family history of hearing loss
- If you are exposed to a lot of noise at work
- If you often ask people to repeat themselves
- If others have commented that your television is too loud or that you speak too loudly
- If it is hard for you to understand a conversation when you are in a large group or a noisy place
If your child is being tested, the audiologist may ask about:
- Difficulties with speech and language development
- Other developmental issues
- Difficulty in school
- Health history
- Family history of permanent childhood hearing loss
- Your child’s responses to both familiar and unexpected sounds
Your audiologist will likely:
- Examine the outer ear for deformities
- Examine the ear canal and eardrum with an otoscope, which is a hand-held instrument that has a light and a magnifying lens
Description of Test
There are several types of audiometry, including:
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.
You will wear special headphones. You will hear simple, two-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 emits sounds. The test measures how much your eardrum moves in response to the air pressure change and the sounds. It can help determine how well the middle ear is functioning and if there is fluid in it.
For Infants and Toddlers
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 EEG recordings over the auditory cortex.
Your test results are recorded on an audiogram. This is a chart or graph that shows the softest sounds you can hear. The audiologist will explain your test results.
How Long Will It Take?
Testing times vary. A first screening may take only 5-10 minutes. A more detailed hearing test may take up to an hour.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if any of the following occurs after the test:
- You experience continued or severe lightheadedness
- You notice additional hearing loss
- You experience pain
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Academy of Audiology
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Canadian Academy of Audiology
All about hearing loss: What is an audiogram? Boys Town National Research Hospital website. Available at: http://www.babyhearing.org/HearingAmplification/HearingLoss/audiogram.asp. Accessed July 23, 2013.
Hearing assistive technology. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/treatment/assist_tech.htm. Accessed July 23, 2013.
Brender E, Burke A. Audiometry. JAMA. 2006;295(4):460.
Hearing screening and testing. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/testing/assess.htm. Accessed July 23, 2013.
Types of hearing tests. Cincinnati Children’s website. Available at: http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/h/hearing-tests. Updated May 2013. Accessed July 23, 2013.
Last reviewed June 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.