Because hearing loss is gradual, it’s not always easy to notice the symptoms. If you’re over 55 and haven’t had your hearing tested recently, it’s probably a good idea to have a hearing test. What happens at a hearing test? Several things that will help determine any degree of hearing loss and how best to treat it.

The first step

The best way to determine if you have a hearing loss is to see an audiologist for testing. Audiologists test hearing through a series of exams, in addition to asking some questions regarding your health. Many audiologists offer free or discounted hearing tests for new clients, but you have to make an appointment. Expect to spend about an hour at the office.

At your appointment

Before the hearing tests, you meet with the audiologist to discuss any changes you’ve noticed in your hearing. The audiologist also will ask about your medical history and do a physical check of your ears. Sometimes an earwax blockage or other problem can lead to decreased hearing. Next, you’ll talk about your medical history and any medications you take. You’ll discuss if there’s a family history of hearing loss or any medications you take that may impact your hearing.

After the consultation, you will take two or three hearing tests. They are painless and each helps determine how best to treat any hearing loss. The first test is called a pure-tone test. You are in a soundproof room and you wear headphones. You will hear tones play separately in each ear. The tones vary in volumes (decibels) and pitches (frequencies) to help determine your hearing range.

The second test is a speech test which may be recorded or live. Without seeing the tester, you will listen for words that are whispered or spoken softly and you will repeat them. The test helps determine the softest sounds you understand.

Another test that may be performed is the tuning fork test. The tuning fork is placed on your head near your ear and tapped to produce a sound. You determine when the tone fades in each ear. This test checks for conductive or nerve issues.

The results

Your audiologist will review the results with you, discussing where your hearing falls within normal and abnormal ranges. Each test works like a puzzle part to pull together a strong diagnosis that allows the audiologist to prepare a comprehensive treatment plan. For many people, this involves hearing aids. If hearing aids are recommended, you can start the process right away. Your audiologist will discuss the different types of hearing aids available and how each may work to your benefit. Depending on the style of hearing aid you choose, you may have ear impressions taken that day.

Knowing what happens at a hearing aid test may help relieve some apprehensions, especially if you haven’t had a hearing test in a long time. Seeing an audiologist is an important part of your health care routine.