You’re ready to have your hearing checked, but do you know the correct terminology to use? Hearing screening and a hearing test (or evaluation) are two different things. Learn what each entails so you know the best course of action for your hearing health.
Difference Between Hearing Screening and a Hearing Test
Hearing screening is performed on most babies soon after they are born. For infants, hearing screening is an important way of diagnosing hearing loss before it impacts language development. The most commonly used screening methods on babies and infants include otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) and auditory brainstem response (ABR), which can detect hearing loss averaging 30 to 40 decibels or in the frequency range associated with speech recognition, approximately 500–4000 Hertz. Both of these procedures are simple and painless and can be administered while a child is resting quietly.
Babies and infants who fail the hearing screening do not necessarily have hearing loss. Those who fail are typically given a second screening to confirm the results. If a hearing issue is detected through these screenings, a child will be referred to a pediatric audiologist for a more thorough evaluation.
In older children or adults, the initial screening is often a pure-tone test, which determines the faintest tones a person can hear at various pitches from low to high. Schools may perform hearing screening for children, while adults are often screened at their doctor’s office or public event at their workplace, a community health fair, etc.
If you fail a hearing screening, you will be referred to an audiologist who will perform hearing tests. However, in the absence of a hearing screening, look for the following signs of a hearing loss as indicators that a visit to the audiologist is necessary:
- Problems hearing over the phone or hearing better through one ear versus another on the phone
- Difficulty with conversation where two or more people are talking at the same time
- Others complaining that you are missing what has been said
- Difficulty hearing in restaurants or where there is noise in the background
- Dizziness, pain or ringing in your ears
- Constantly asking people to repeat themselves
- Others remarking that the volume on your TV is up too high
Your audiologist visit will include a hearing evaluation. It will typically begin with questions about your medical/hearing history, followed by the audiologist looking into your ears with an otoscope to look for issues that may impact the test results. The final step is a hearing test, or series of tests, to determine if there is hearing loss, the possible cause of the hearing loss, the degree of hearing loss and the best treatment options for your specific situation.
The primary tests include:
- Pure tone testing as described above.
- Speech testing can be preformed in a quiet or noisy environment and may include speech reception threshold (SRT), which records the faintest speech that can be heard half of the time, and word recognition, the ability to correctly repeat back words at a comfortable loudness level.
- Tests of the middle ear include tympanometry, acoustic reflex measures, and static acoustic measures and are most important in preschool children where hearing loss is associated with middle ear disease.
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) provides info about the inner ear and the brain pathways for hearing. As such, it may be recommended for people with symptoms that suggest a hearing loss in the brain or brain pathway.
- Otoacoustic Emissions tests damage to the outer hair cells in the cochlea, as well as detects blockage in the outer ear canal and the presence of middle ear fluid
Hearing screenings are used to identify hearing loss. Investigating, understanding and treating the hearing loss, however, is only possible by a more thorough hearing evaluation and testing performed by a certified audiologist. These tests, used in conjunction with each other, will provide a complete picture of your hearing status. If you have failed a hearing screening or believe you have hearing loss, it is important to schedule a visit to an audiologist to address this issue expediently. Waiting will only allow your hearing problem to get worse.
Palm Beach Sleep and Sinus, under the direction of Mark T. Agrama, MD, is dedicated to the medical and surgical treatment of adult sleep, sinus and nose disorders. State of the art diagnostic protocols such as Home Sleep Studies, Laboratory Sleep Studies, Nasal Endoscopy, Video Flexible Laryngoscopy, Video Stroboscopy, Sleep Endoscopy, and CT Scan Imaging help us analyze our patient’s condition. Our mission is the optimization of Sleep and Sinus health for our patients using a comprehensive and individualized plan designed for long-term success. To discuss your hearing loss, please contact us online or call 561-624-5311.