The Different Types of Hearing Tests

Pure Tone Audiometry 

Generally considered to be the ‘gold standard’ of hearing function tests, Pure Tone Audiometry is the most widely used test for detecting and establishing the type, severity and nature of hearing loss. It’s also the preferred method amongst the majority of hearing care professionals. The audiogram generated during the testing procedure plots the participant’s hearing threshold across a range of frequencies and decibels (dB). This enables a hearing care professional to assess whether the individual has any hearing loss and if so, to what degree. The test can also identify whether the patient has conductive or sensorineural hearing loss. This information can then be used to help guide treatment and improve ear health. 

Bone Conduction Audiometry 

Bone conduction audiometry is a type of pure tone hearing test that bypasses the outer ear and middle ear. The device vibrates the bone behind the ear to transmit the sound directly into the cochlea. The vibrations pass through the bones of the skull and into the inner ear (cochlea). This test may be helpful for patients with damaged or blocked outer or middle ear. During the test, a patient will raise a hand or press a button when they hear certain sounds. The results are charted on an audiogram, a graph that shows the type, degree, and configuration of their hearing loss by comparing pitch (frequency) with loudness (intensity). 

Otoacoustic Emissions 

Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs) are sounds produced when a small part of the inner ear responds to a sound stimulus. These emissions are a natural part of hearing, so they can be used to test how well an ear is working. OAEs are also a very quick and painless test. A small probe is placed into your ear and a speaker delivers soft clicking noises. The sound stimulates your outer hair cells, which vibrate. This creates a barely audible, inaudible sound that echoes back to the middle ear. OAEs are one of the most commonly used tests in audiology, especially for newborns who need to be screened for deafness. However, results from OAE testing alone cannot diagnose hearing loss. 

Auditory Brainstem Response 

The Auditory Brainstem Response is a test used to see how your child’s hearing nerves and brain respond to sounds. It is often done with infants who cannot complete a standard hearing screening test or children who have medical or developmental problems that make sitting still and responding to the sounds of a hearing test difficult. ABR tests measure the synchronous discharge of fibers in the auditory pathway. This type of EEG signal is important in assessing audiologic disorders including abnormal neural synchrony and retrocochlear pathology (e.g., Bell’s palsy, vestibular schwannomas, Duane retraction syndrome, and Marcus Gunn ptosis). ABR is also useful for evaluating tinnitus, particularly in patients with hearing loss. In tinnitus, the longer Wave V latency, or ‘ringing’ sound evoked by an ABR stimulus, is a good indicator of an abnormal neuronal response in the brainstem. 

Speech Audiometry 

Speech Audiometry is a form of hearing test that tests an individual’s ability to perceive and process speech stimuli. This is a very important testing method as it allows the clinician to understand the client’s full auditory pathway and their processing capability. During this type of testing, the patient is presented with words in a controlled environment and asked to repeat them. This can be done using live voice or recorded voices. The benefits of Speech Audiometry include the ability to determine the type of hearing loss a person has, identify the configuration of the hearing loss, and assess laterality. In addition, it is possible to measure a person’s word understanding at different presentation levels and the ability to differentiate sounds.