Man taking a hearing test.

People tend to throw around the general term “hearing test,” but in fact, there are several levels of testing that go by different names. Knowing the differences is vital to identifying hearing problems as quickly as possible and getting the proper treatment to ensure that issues don’t worsen or cause long-term damage.

Hearing Screenings

Hearing screenings are quick, painless tests to determine if you have hearing loss and if you need additional testing. A hearing screening is a pass-or-fail test, and if you pass, you don’t need to take further steps other than planning to get regular screenings in the future. The actual procedure varies depending on the age of the patient.

  • Newborns and Small Children – Most babies have a hearing screening before they leave the hospital. This is important, as it is vital to identify hearing problems as soon as possible so that further evaluation and treatment can begin.
  • Older Kids and Adults – Most older children and adults get what is called a pure-tone test to screen their hearing. This involves putting on headphones and noting when you hear a sound. Kids should get tested every few years, and adults should get a screening every ten years until the age of 50. The incidence of hearing loss increases with age, so after the age of 50, you should get a screening every three years.

Hearing Evaluations

If you fail a hearing screening, your doctor recommends further action with a trained hearing care specialist. A hearing evaluation involves more than just testing, as identifying that a problem exists is only one part of the process.

Your hearing care specialist starts by asking about your hearing history and other things that may affect your hearing, such as heart problems, diabetes, or if you are regularly exposed to loud sounds. They also look into your ears to check for excessive ear wax or other things may affect the outcome of the test. At this point your hearing care specialist is seeking to answer several questions rather just giving you the “test” that most people think of:

  • Do you have hearing loss?
  • What is causing it?
  • How bad is the problem and is it in one or both ears?
  • What treatment options best fit your needs?

There are several types of hearing tests that doctors choose from during your evaluation, depending on factors such as age. The hearing evaluation process should be a group effort, so be sure to ask your hearing care specialist plenty of questions, such as which type of test they are doing and why they chose that particular test. Be an active part of the conversation when your doctors gives you your results.

If the final recommendation is a hearing aid or other device, bring up any concerns you may have. This is not the time to be shy or to go home and stew over a problem that worsens if not addressed immediately.

If it makes you more comfortable, bring a loved one along to your hearing evaluation. It is always good to get everyone who is affected by hearing problems involved from the beginning. This helps to improve communication as you go further through the process and plan for the future.

Get your hearing screened, and make sure you continue to do it regularly. Follow up if you don’t pass the screening with a full hearing evaluation. Untreated hearing loss leads to loss of income, relationship issues, emotional problems, and in some case further hearing loss. Be proactive when it comes to protecting your hearing and that of your loved ones.