If you believe that you are one of the millions of Americans currently experiencing hearing loss without receiving treatment, booking an appointment with the audiologist should sit at the top of your priority list. Before having your hearing examination, though, it's important to know exactly what to expect. 

One of the big questions at the tip of your tongue should be, 'can the audiologist identify every case of hearing loss?'. Here's all you need to know.

What does an audiologist look for in the hearing test?

The audiologist will use several examinations to gain a comprehensive insight into your hearing profile. Some of the most common tests include:

  • Speech testing
  • Pure-tone testing
  • Bone conducting testing
  • Tympanometry
  • Acoustic reflex testing
  • Auditory brainstem response
  • Otoacoustic emissions

Through conducting all of these tests, the audiologist can plot a clear audiogram hearing chart that details the range of tones and volumes that you can detect. Moreover, the physical examinations look for abnormalities in the bones and general development of the ear to further increase the accuracy in not only identifying the presence of hearing loss but also the type and severity that is experienced.

So, does passing the hearing test mean that my hearing is 100% fine?

When you pass the hearing examinations, it'll naturally help you breathe a huge sigh of relief. And if you only booked the appointment because you were a due a test, the pass almost certainly confirms that things are fine.

However, it should be noted that you will pass the hearing test even if a very tiny level of hearing loss is detected. Anything between +10 dB and -15 dB is considered the normal range, while even a slight hearing loss (up to -20 dB) will gain a full pass as this will not impact interactions with humans or natural surroundings. The very small hearing loss could escalate over time, though, which is why you must visit the audiologist at least once every few years.

Perhaps more crucially, though, there are two types of hearing loss issues that might slip through the net.

Hidden hearing loss

The term hidden hearing loss relates to a form of auditory issue that may be experienced by an individual but not picked up by the audiograms or hearing tests. Essentially, it is a condition in which damage is caused to the inner ear, meaning permanent hearing loss occurs. However, the brain's auditory system has found a way to compensate for the damage and is currently able to pick up sounds by working in overdrive.

This is problematic for two reasons. Firstly, the brain can compensate for the lost hearing during the examinations because you are placing your full focus on the hearing test. When you return to normal daily life, the hearing loss will likely be more noticeable. Secondly, let unmanaged, the damage to the inner ear will worsen over time.

This type of damage is usually related to the hairs within the cochlea. The inner ear hair cells are responsible for 95% of the sounds traveling to the brain.

Tinnitus hearing loss testing

Hearing loss isn't the only issue that you may experience. Tinnitus – the presence of buzzing and whistling even when there is no external sound source – is another. The two are very closely linked, with tinnitus causing greater hearing loss and hearing loss leading to an increased presence of tinnitus.

Tinnitus can be segregated into several classifications too, and many of them cannot be heard by the audiologist. The best they can do is sit you in a booth and ask you to press a button when the sounds they playback through a music system match the sounds you hear during bouts of tinnitus.

Naturally, though, the subjective nature does mean that inaccuracies can surface. Not only in direct relation to tinnitus but also the hearing loss that it causes.

So, are hearing tests futile?

The percentage of hearing loss instances that aren't picked up on an audiogram is minimal. Furthermore, if you believe that you experience hearing loss, the audiologist is there to have a conversation about it. The more info you provide before the examinations begin, the easier it becomes to create a clear image of the sounds that can or cannot be detected.

Hearing tests are a hugely valuable tool that can either confirm your healthy hearing or enable you to seek the support you require. Either way, you can book yours by calling Davis Audiology at 864-655-8300 today.