When hearing loss is suspected, Pure Tone Audiometry test is the most basic and common type of hearing tests that are used to evaluate hearing loss in an individual by spot-checking one’s response to tone presented at certain frequencies and volume. Pure Tone Audiometry hearing tests are conducted to obtain the hearing thresholds of individuals, gaining insights on what the softest levels of sound a person can hear at individual pitches of sounds. Individuals will respond by pressing a button or raising a hand after hearing a series of tones that are presented on each ear through a pair of headphones. The results of the hearing test will be plotted in a graph known as an audiogram. Audiogram results will provide insights on the type of hearing loss and the severity of hearing loss individual experiences.
Pure Tone Audiometry hearing test is performed with the use of an audiometer. Handheld audiometers have a sensitivity of 92 percent and a specificity of 94 percent in detecting sensorineural hearing impairment. There are several types of audiometers available, but all function similarly by allowing the tester to increase and decrease the intensity (loudness, in decibels [dB]) and frequency (pitch, in Hz) of the signal as desired.
Pure Tone Audiometry hearing test is broadly defined as either screening or threshold search. Screening audiometry presents tones across the speech spectrum (250 to 8,000 Hz) at the upper limits of normal hearing (25 to 30 dB for adults, and 15 to 20 dB for children). Results are recorded as pass, indicating that the patient’s hearing levels are within normal limits, or refer, indicating that hearing loss is possible and a repeat screening test or a threshold search test is recommended.
Pure Tone Audiometry hearing tests are non-invasive and painless, and it generally takes around 20 to 30 minutes. These hearing tests can be done at an hearing specialists clinics, or at hospitals. Elderly are encouraged to go for hearing tests once every 3 to 5 years as part of their routine body check-ups as age-related hearing loss are common and they happen overtime due to one’s natural aging process. Individuals who are constantly exposed to loud noises and are working in noisy environment (e.g. factories, construction, nightclubs, concerts) should also go for regular hearing tests as constant exposure to loud noises without proper care can lead to noise-induced hearing loss.