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How is Hearing Tested?

How exactly is

hearing tested?

A thorough hearing assessment is important to determine the type and severity of your hearing loss. The assessment often comprises a number of tests including pure tone and speech audiometry, as well as tympanometry testing. These assessments give your hearing care professional a better understanding of the type and level of your hearing loss.

Pure-tone audiometry

Pure-tone audiometry measures your hearing thresholds (softest sound you can hear) across a wide range of frequencies or pitches (normally from 250Hz to 8000 Hz). Hearing thresholds are measured using both head phones and a bone-conductor. The results of pure-tone audiometry are often displayed in the form of an audiogram.

Speech audiometry

Speech audiometry measures your ability to hear familiar words at different volume levels to determine your speech understanding ability and to assess the benefits of hearing aids. Special testing will also be done to assess your sensitivity to background noise.


Tympanometry measures the sound movement and sound reflection through your eardrum (tympanic membrane) and middle ear system to check for problems (for example, conditions such as middle ear effusion, eustachian tube dysfunction).

How to read

an audiogram

An audiogram shows your hearing ability by showing your hearing at various frequencies. During a hearing test your hearing results are recorded on the audiogram by means of red Os for the right ear and blue Xs for the left one. The resulting red and blue lines show your hearing threshold for each ear at different frequencies.

  • The vertical axis of the audiogram represents sound volume or intensity which is measured in decibels (dB). The softest sounds are at the top of the chart and the loudest sounds at the bottom. The more one moves down the axis, the higher the hearing threshold and the worse the hearing.
  • The horizontal axis of the audiogram represents sound frequency or pitch measured in Hertz (Hz). Sound frequency increases gradually the further one moves to the right along the axis. The frequencies most often tested are 250, 500, 1000, 2000, 4000 and 8000 Hz.
A hearing threshold of between 0 and 20 dB is considered normal.
Classification of Hearing Loss Hearing Threshold
Normal hearing 0 to 20 dB
Mild 21 to 30 dB
Moderate 31 to 55 dB
Moderately-severe 56 to 70 dB
Severe 71 to 90 dB
Profound 91+ dB

Audio23 by Audiology6 (talk) (Uploads) – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikipedia.

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