Hearing Tests (Adult and Pediatric)

In both adults and children, normal hearing occurs when sound waves travel into your ear, causing your eardrum to vibrate. The vibration moves the waves farther into the ear, where it triggers nerve cells to send sound information to your brain. This information is translated into the sounds you hear. Hearing loss happens when there is a problem with one or more parts of the ear, the nerves inside the ear, or the part of the brain that controls hearing. There are three main types of hearing loss:

  1. Conductive; caused by a blockage of sound transmission into the ear. This is most common in infants and young children and often caused by ear infections or fluid in the ears. It is usually mild, temporary, and treatable.
  2. Sensorineural (also called nerve deafness) is caused by a problem with the structure of the ear and/or with the nerves that control hearing. It may be present at birth or show up later in life. It is usually permanent and ranges from mild (the inability to hear certain sounds) to profound (the inability to hear any sounds).
  3. Mixed, a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

You may need a hearing test if you have symptoms of hearing loss which include:

  • Trouble understanding what other people are saying, especially in a noisy environment
  • Needing to ask people to repeat themselves
  • Trouble hearing high-pitched sounds
  • Needing to turn up the volume on the TV or music player
  • A ringing sound in your ears

There are several types of hearing tests. Most tests check for your response to tones or words delivered at different pitches, volumes, and/or noise environments. For infants and young children, there are 2 types of hearing tests available:

  1. An Auditory Brainstorm (ABR) test checks for sensorineural hearing loss and measures how the brain responds to sound. Sensors that look like small stickers are used or probes to measure hearing. This test does not require a verbal response.
  2. An Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) test. This type of test records and measures the inner ear’s response to the sounds and a small probe is used. This test can find hearing loss, but can’t tell the difference between conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

For Older Children and Adults there are several tests that can be done. 

  1. A sound test will check for response to tones or words delivered at different pitches, volumes, and/or noise environments.
  2. A Tympanometry tests how well your eardrum moves helps find out if there is an ear infection or other problems such as fluid or wax buildup, or a hole or tear in the eardrum. (This test requires your child to sit very still)
  3. Acoustic Reflex Measures (also called middle ear muscle reflex (MEMR)), test how well the ear responds to loud sounds.
  4. Pure-tone test, also known as audiometry. (The test helps find the quietest sounds your child can hear at different pitches).
  5. Tuning fork tests can show if there is hearing loss in one or both ears. (It can also show which type of hearing loss your child has conductive or sensorineural).
  6. Speech and word recognition can show how well your child can hear spoken language. (These tests are done on children old enough to talk and understand language)