How Does a Hearing Test Work?

Many people hear the word “test” and have unpleasant flashbacks to pop quizzes in algebra.

The good news? If you’re one of the 20 percent of adults in Santa Barbara with hearing loss, you won’t have to figure out any x and y variables on your hearing test.

In fact, hearing tests don’t require much work at all; basically, all you need to do is show up. Your Plano audiologist will handle the rest.

There is More Than One Type of Hearing Test


Santa Barbara Audiology office
Deaf woman takes a hearing test

The first thing to understand about a hearing test is this: you should actually refer to it in the plural. When your audiologist in Santa Barbara evaluates your hearing, they are likely to give you a series of individual tests.

The reason is simple: the ear is made up of three parts; damage can affect the outer, middle or inner ear (and sometimes all three).

The type of treatment you receive depends on which parts of the ear are impacted, as well as the type and degree of loss. It usually takes several hearing tests in order to figure all this out.

Hearing tests are safe and painless and require no studying in advance. You won’t have to memorize the capital of Montana (Helena); instead, you’ll be seated in a sound proof booth and given a pair of headphones. The results of your test are plotted on a chart called an audiogram.

Common Hearing Tests

The most common hearing tests administered in Santa Barbara are described below.

  • Air Conduction Test. Also called pure tone audiometry, this test requires you to wear headphones and raise a hand, push a button or respond verbally to tones of different volumes and frequencies. Your responses determine how well you can hear at various frequencies, an indication of which section of your ear is damaged.
  • Bone Conduction Test. Bone conduction testing is similar to an air conduction test but instead of headphones, a small device is placed behind your ears that emits vibrations designed to stimulate your cochlea. Your response indicates how well sound travels through your ears.
  • Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR). In an ABR test, electrodes are attached to your head, scalp or earlobes. A series of clicking noises is sent through your headphones and the electrodes measure your brainwave activity in response to these sounds. ABR testing is designed to measure hearing loss in the inner ear, known as nerve deafness.
  • Speech Testing. Speech or word recognition testing is used to measure your speech reception abilities. You will be given different words and phrases at varying volume levels and asked to repeat them back to your tester. Testing is administered in both quiet and noisy backgrounds.
  • Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs). OAE testing uses a probe with a microphone and speaker that is placed inside your ear canal. Sound that is generated should stimulate the hair cells of the inner ear and cause them to vibrate, producing their own faint sounds called otoacoustic emissions. When hearing loss exceeds 25-30 decibels, no OAEs will be produced.


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