If you’ve noticed a decline in your hearing, you may be wondering what happens at a hearing exam. It’s a simple procedure that’s painless and involves a physical check of your ears along with several hearing tests. Here is a step-by-step review of what to expect.

Meet with the audiologist

Prior to any examination, you will meet with your audiologist for a consultation. This includes a discussion of your current health, any concerns you may have and any medications you take. The audiologist will ask if you have any pain in your ears, whether there is a history of ear infections and your exposure to noise. During the consultation you also will discuss your family’s medical history. Prior to the meeting, check with your health insurance to see if it provides any coverage.

An examination of your ears

The audiologist uses a special hand-held tool called an otoscope to check inside your ear canal. The purpose is to look for any signs of infection, earwax impactions or other problems.

The hearing tests

At least two hearing tests will be given – sometimes additional tests are performed. The first test checks how well you hear tones. You sit in a soundproof booth with headphones on. Various sounds are played in each ear and you must identify in which ear you hear the tone. The sounds are of varying pitches and volumes. The audiologist then evaluates where any hearing loss may have occurred. The second test is a speech test. You listen for words that are spoken softly and repeat them.

The results

After the hearing tests, the audiologist will show you an audiogram, which charts any hearing loss you may have. The audiogram shows you where your hearing is normal and where you have difficulty hearing sounds. For many people, hearing loss occurs in the higher ranges and/or with softer volumes. Your audiologist will discuss the options available to improve your hearing, which may include hearing aids.

A second consultation

If the results indicate you would benefit from hearing aids, your audiologist will ask you questions about your lifestyle. Do you enjoy outdoor sports? Maybe you work in a noisy environment or your work requires you to spend a lot of time on the telephone. Perhaps you like to attend concerts and other public events. These questions help determine what kind of device will work best for you and fits your budget.

The hearing aid fitting

The fitting depends upon the style of hearing aid that’s right for you. Some people may be able to be fitted at this same appointment and leave wearing their new hearing aids. Others may require a custom-fit earpiece. If this is the case, your audiologist will take an ear impression to create an ear mold. The impression is sent to the manufacturer and you will return for a second fitting when the units are ready.

When you know what happens at a hearing exam, you’re less likely to be nervous and are prepared to move ahead with improving your hearing health.