What Are the Most Common Hearing Tests?


One out of every five Bay Area residents will experience hearing loss at some point in their lives. There is a wide range of possible causes, from noisy crowds at 49ers games to rock ‘n roll concerts at Shoreline Amphitheater and even – gasp! – advancing age. Regardless of the factors that have contributed to hearing loss, your Walnut Creek audiology specialist will order hearing tests in order to determine the type, degree, and configuration of your hearing loss – the first steps in diagnosing and treating hearing loss.

Untreated Hearing Loss Has Serious Consequences

Symptoms of untreated hearing loss

Think you can live with your hearing loss and learn to adapt? Ignoring it won’t solve anything. In fact, untreated hearing loss has been linked to a variety of physical, social, and cognitive health effects, including:

  • Irritability and anger
  • Fatigue, stress, and depression
  • Social withdrawal
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Reduced mental alertness
  • Increased risk to personal safety
  • Impaired memory
  • Poor job performance and reduced earning power
  • Cognitive decline and depression

The moral of the story is: hearing loss is not something to take lightly! If you’re worried about hearing tests, we can help put your fears to rest. Hearing tests are safe and painless. And you won’t get graded on them.

Types of Hearing Tests

Your Walnut Creek audiology clinic administers a variety of hearing tests. They won’t conduct each one, but will choose those they feel are most appropriate for you. You may be given one or more of the following common hearing tests:

  • Pure Tone Audiometry. Also referred to as air conduction testing, this test measures your response to sounds of varying frequencies and volumes. You’ll be seated in a sound proof booth and given a pair of headphones to wear; when sounds are delivered through the headphones you’ll be asked to respond in some way, usually by pressing a button or raising a hand. The results will show your degree of hearing loss and whether it affects one or both ears.
  • Bone Conduction Test. Bone conduction testing is used to check for a blockage in your outer or middle ear. A small device is placed behind your ear or on your forehead and struck, causing it to vibrate and produce a mechanical tone that should stimulate your cochlea. Your response indicates how well sound is traveling through your ear, and whether your outer or middle ear is affected.
  • Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR). In an ABR test, electrodes are attached to your head, scalp and earlobes, and you are given headphones to wear. Sounds are sent through the headphones, and the electrodes measure your brainwave activity in response to these noises. ABR is accurate at diagnosing sensorineural hearing loss, also known as nerve deafness.
  • Speech Testing. Speech testing measures your ability to hear and repeat back words and phrases. Testing is typically performed in both quiet and noisy backgrounds, and is useful in determining whether you will benefit from wearing hearing aids or assistive listening devices.
  • Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs). In an OAE test, a probe containing a microphone and speaker is inserted into the ear canal and sound is generated in an effort to stimulate the cochlea. The hair cells should vibrate in response, producing their own faint sound known as an otoacoustic emission. When hearing loss exceeds 25-30 decibels, no sounds will be produced.