The Main Types of Hearing Tests

Hearing loss can be difficult to live with. Both young and old can be susceptible to varying levels of hearing impairment throughout their lives. Unfortunately, quality of life can suffer due to untreated hearing loss in many cases. Over the years, tried and tested hearing tests have been used to evaluate the hearing of the general population to great success, leading audiologists to provide comprehensive hearing advice that helps clients to go about their day-to-day lives with hearing aids that suit their needs. 

Symptoms of Hearing Loss

If you’re wondering if you need to get your hearing checked, general signs that you may have hearing loss include:

  • Difficulty hearing conversations when there is background noise
  • A tendency to amp up the volume with radios, speakers, and televisions
  • Speech or other sounds seeming muffled or muted
  • Finding that you’re asking people to repeat what they’re saying quite often, or that you’re talking too loudly
  • A ringing sensation in the ears that presents itself as tinnitus

The main types of hearing tests are conducted in order to pinpoint hearing issues and inform the treatment plans for clients in their hearing solutions. Below, what these hearing tests are, and what they test for.

Pure Tone Testing

Also known as pure tone audiometry, this test uses air conduction to measure your ability to hear on a range of pitches and volumes. Clients are taken into a soundproof booth and asked to wear headphones. In the booth, the client will hear a series of different sounds. With each tone heard, they’ll be required to raise a hand or press a button, and this tests for your hearing threshold. These sounds will occur in both the left and right ears to discern hearing quality in both. Ultimately, it will determine whether your hearing is normal or impaired.

Occasionally, pure tone testing may not be effective due to a buildup of fluid or earwax, resulting in bone conduction testing taking place. 

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Bone Conduction Testing

Bone Conduction Testing measures the inner ear’s response to sound and is another type of pure-tone test. Using a conductor that is placed behind the ear, tiny vibrations are sent through the bone and directly into the inner ear. Often, this test is used in conjunction with pure-tone audiometry to determine the type of hearing loss.


This test determines if there is a buildup of fluid or wax in the ear, or if there are eardrum perforations or tumours that are affecting hearing. It does this by measuring the movement of your eardrum in response to air pressure. The test is usually quick and pain-free, unless there is existing inflammation in the middle ear or eardrum. 

To break it down, a hearing healthcare professional or general practitioner will use a tympanometer to create air pressure in your ear canal, much like the pressure experience when quickly changing altitudes. As the pressure occurs, the movements in your eardrums are recorded, and then displayed on a tympanogram graph. 

Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)

If you have sensorineural hearing loss, the Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) testing is the best test to indicate this. Using electrodes attached to the head, scalp, or even earlobes, you’ll be given headphones to wear to hear sounds of varying intensities. The electrodes then measure your brainwave activity in response to these sounds. Because of its nature, ABR is frequently used to screen for hearing issues in newborn children.

Ultimately, the ABR determines whether the cochlea and hearing brain pathways are in working order. If you get this particular test done, you aren’t required to do anything – just sit back, relax, and the ABR will do the rest, 

Acoustic Reflex Testing

This type of testing is used to determine the location of the hearing problem, whether it’s the ossicles, the cochlea, the auditory nerve, or any other part of the ear. It does this by measuring the involuntary muscle contractions of the middle ear. It also tests for the type of hearing loss. 

Acoustic Reflex Testing can be important in diagnosing hearing conditions and providing a differential diagnosis, including whether the hearing loss is conductive, sensory, or neural, and the degree of the hearing loss. 

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Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE Testing)

Otoacoustic emissions are sounds that have been generated by the vibrations of the hair cells of your inner ear, the cochlea. As such, OAE testing uses a tiny probe with a microphone and speaker put in the ear in order to stimulate the cochlea and measure its response to sound. Our inner ear houses hair cells, which will vibrate in response to sound. These vibrations then send out a quieter sound into the middle ear, and this is what the OAE Testing is measuring. 

OAE Testing is often used to determine whether there is a blockage in the ear canal, excess fluid in the middle ear, or damage to the hair cells in the inner ear, individuals who have hearing loss will produce no emissions. OAE is often used to check newborn children’s hearing as well.

Speech Testing

Speech testing is used for children and adults who are able to talk, and is often compared to results from a pure-tone test for the most comprehensive result. Used to measure the faintest speech that you can understand and repeat, or your speech reception threshold (SRT), this test is done in both quiet and noisy environments to measure your ability to separate speech sounds from ambient background noises.

It’s important to note that audiologists will often use a combination of these tests to really pinpoint the cause of hearing loss. Only then will they be able to provide sound advice for a treatment plan that will address all of the hearing issues that you have. 

If you have concerns about your hearing, it might be time to have a professional hearing test with a qualified audiologist. Make sure to book your Perth hearing test with reputable audiology clinics so that you’re provided with well-tested hearing solutions that have been proven to work.

Johnny Thompson

Johnny Thompson is a senior reporter for Generator Research in Los Angeles, reporting on technology, business, finances, and more. He previously worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

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