Australian Government - Department of Health - Office of Hearing Services
Hearing Services Program

How is my hearing tested?

Your hearing can be tested in a number of ways, this page explains how your hearing is tested and what to expect at your hearing test.

Your hearing can be tested in a number of ways and this mainly depends on your age:

Newborns will have a hearing screening prior to leaving hospital. This test is very quick and is done while the baby is asleep

Infants can have a test which measures how the brain responds to sounds. Infants should be asleep for this test

Younger children will have a game based test or a test using puppets to help them turn to noises in a testing room and

Children aged six years and older can often be tested the same way as adults.

Generally, adults are tested using headphones to measure the softest sounds you can hear. You will be asked to listen to different sounds through the headphones and then respond when you hear them, even if they are very soft. The softest sounds you hear are called thresholds. The thresholds are used to determine the type and level of hearing loss you may have.

You will also have a test using a headband that sits on the bone behind your ear, which is called a bone conductor. It measures how the hearing nerve hears the sounds which are gently vibrated through the bones of the skull.

The results of your hearing test are plotted on a graph called an audiogram.

What is an audiogram?

An audiogram is a graph which plots your hearing loss. Your hearing thresholds are graphed to show how close your hearing is to normal range. Using an audiogram helps to determine the level of your hearing loss as well as to show where in the pathway the hearing problem may be. The audiogram is split into two sections: frequency and intensity (or loudness).

Frequency:

This is shown across the top of the graph. Frequency is the type or pitch of noise and is measured in Hertz (Hz). Low frequencies have smaller numbers and higher frequencies have higher numbers. For example, 500Hz is a low frequency noise (such as the humming of a refrigerator) and 4000Hz is a high frequency noise (such as crickets or birds chirping).

Intensity:

This is shown down the side of the graph. Intensity is how loud the sound is and is measured in decibels. When measuring loudness as part of a hearing assessment, we are actually looking for the softest sounds you can hear. These levels are called thresholds and are measured for each ear at each frequency. Bone conduction testing is performed in the same way and these thresholds are also plotted on the audiogram.

The audiogram is used to sort your hearing into the mild, moderate, severe or profound range. It also helps to show what type of hearing loss you may have (sensori-neural conductive, or mixed).

You may also have a speech perception test. This helps to show how the brain is receiving and understanding speech information. These results will be compared to your audiogram.

It’s possible you may need other specialised hearing tests. This will depend on the results of your audiogram and any other symptoms you may be having. Please speak to your hearing practitioner or your medical practitioner if you need more information about these assessments if they are suggested for you.

What other tests are there?

As part of a general hearing assessment, you may also have a test which measures the pressure in the middle ear and the movement of the ear drum. This test is called an impedance test or tympanometry. This is a test of how the middle ear is working and is not a test of your hearing.

If you have any questions about your hearing assessment results, your audiogram or your hearing loss, speak with your contracted service provider or your family doctor for more information.

 

How is my hearing tested (PDF 56 KB)

Hearing loss and deafness (PDF 51 KB)

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