It can take years for symptoms of age-related hearing loss to appear, and a few more after that before most people admit they need a hearing test. For adults, hearing care isn’t a part of routine health care – less than 15 percent of primary care doctors test hearing. For these reasons, it’s common for adults to have questions about hearing tests. If you’ve asked any of the following questions, you’re in good company.

1. What do hearing tests determine, exactly?

During a hearing evaluation, you’ll be put through a range of hearing tests that are designed to help your audiologist diagnose which type of hearing loss you have (conductive, sensorineural or both) as well as its frequency range and severity.

Conductive hearing loss results from a problem with sound’s pathway to the inner ear, whether an infection, injury or blockage. Middle ear tests can diagnose this type very accurately. Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by problems with the inner ear, whether defects, injuries or a loss of hair cells due to cumulative noise damage.

Finally, hearing tests can also reveal if your hearing loss is linked to a medical condition that needs to be treated by another specialist. Your audiologist will use this information to customize your treatment plan.

2. How long are hearing tests?

Although each test will vary in length, none of them take very long. The exact length of your tests depends on the number of different test types your audiologist calls for based on your symptoms and suspected diagnosis. A full hearing evaluation will last roughly an hour, with about 30 minutes of testing and 30 minutes of discussing your hearing symptoms, test results and treatment options.

3. Why should I visit an audiologist for a hearing exam?

As we mentioned, it’s not standard for your primary care doctor to test your hearing as an adult. It’s also not uncommon for many people in their mid-50s, who have not had a full hearing exam in many years, to show signs of age-related hearing loss.

Some people get by with one simple hearing test and an out-of-the-box hearing aid, but seldom does this self-service provide the level of comprehensive care and follow-up that a professional audiologist can provide. Audiologists don’t simply test your hearing; they evaluate many related aspects of your health and can detect early signs of serious conditions that need specialized treatment. They also custom-fit hearing aids to individuals’ hearing profiles and preferences.

In short, audiologists are your best option for high-quality hearing care. If you suspect you have hearing loss, schedule an appointment with one of these professionals as soon as possible.