Hearing is a complicated sense that involves both the capacity of the ear to detect sounds in your environment as well as your brain’s ability to comprehend spoken sounds. Despite the complexity of hearing, developments in pure tone audiometry — a type of behavioral test used to assess hearing acuity — allow audiologists to measure hearing loss.
Pure tone audiometry employs both the peripheral and cerebral auditory systems and relies on many different indicators:
- Pure tone thresholds (PTTs). These thresholds show the quietest sound that an individual can hear at least 50 percent of the time.
- Audiograms. These graphs display intensities of frequency. Audiologists use them to determine hearing responsiveness.
- Reports of hearing loss. These reports, whether they are self-reports or reports from friends and family, are essential to evaluate and comprehensively measure the effects of hearing loss for an individual.
These different indicators estimate the prevalence of hearing loss and can give insight into potential societal impacts. In this article, we’ll discuss pure tone audiometry in greater detail.
Pure Tone Audiometry Versus Pure Tone Average
Although similar in name, pure tone audiometry and pure tone average have different procedures and prognoses. Audiologists determine which test to use based on your needs.
Pure Tone Audiometry
Pure tone audiometry is the primary auditory test audiologists use to determine your hearing threshold levels. It allows for the assessment of the degree, type, and configuration of hearing loss, which audiologists use as the basis for prevention and prognosis. Pure tone audiometry only assesses audibility thresholds and does not assess other hearing elements, like sound localization or speech recognition.
Because pure tone audiometry is based on your reactions to pure tone stimuli, the test is a subjective behavioral assessment of a sound frequency. As a result, this test is primarily used on adults and children who are mature enough to participate in the test.
Pure Tone Average
A pure tone average is a calculation that takes the average of your hearing level in each ear. Pure tone average is also relevant when comparing one ear to the other to identify which ear has better hearing.
A healthy human ear can hear frequencies ranging from 20 to 20,000 Hz at intensities ranging from 0 to 120 dB. The frequencies reflected in human speech, 250 – 8000 Hz, are generally the focus of pure tone audiometry testing. When calculating the pure tone average, you must react to stimulation of the ear being tested for audiometric results to be legitimate.
The number of specific frequencies audiologists examine might vary depending on your age, the reason for the test, and the amount of time for analysis.
How Pure Tone Audiometry Testing Works
In a pure tone audiometry test, audiologists are working to determine the softest or least detectable sound a person can hear. To do this, your audiologist will place you in a soundproof environment and play a variety of sounds for you at different volumes. When you hear a sound, your audiologist will ask you to raise your hand.
Pure Tone Audiometry Treatment
Different treatments will be prescribed to you based on the outcomes of your pure tone audiometry test.
- A pure tone average of more than 25 dB HL typically necessitates responsive listening methods, such as seating near the audio source, when assessing the impact of hearing loss on the individual.
- A pure tone average in both ears of more than 40 dB HL typically necessitates active therapy, such as hearing aids.
- A pure tone average of more than 70 dB HL is severe profound hearing impairment, which can typically benefit from modern cochlear implants.
- A pure tone average of more than 90 dB HL is typically referred to as “deaf,” and typical treatments vary widely.
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How Does Audiometry Testing Work?
Audiologists may conduct several tests in an audiometry assessment, including:
- A pure tone audiometry test to determine the softest or least detectable sound a person can hear.
- A word recognition test to evaluate a person’s ability to hear speech in the presence of ambient noise.
- A tympanometry test to reveal fluid/wax accumulation, ruptured eardrums, ossicle bone deterioration, and middle ear malignancies.
- A complex speech test to assess central auditory processing (CAP) disorder. People with CAP disorder may have acceptable pure tone sensitivities and, in some instances, adequate word recognition abilities.
Each of these tests is conducted differently, but each gives the audiologist a clear picture of your hearing.
What Takes Place During the Test?
Each audiometry test assesses the possibility of various types of hearing loss. Typically, you will be instructed to sit motionlessly and not speak, although each test has different procedures:
- During a pure tone audiometry test, you will be in a soundproof environment. When you hear a sound, your audiologist will ask you to raise your hand.
- During a word recognition test, you will listen to a sequence of two-syllable words at a steadily decreasing loudness as the exam proceeds. As you listen, you will be asked to repeat words you hear to test your speech diversity. The second part of the exam requires you to hear and repeat a series of one-syllable words constantly.
- During a tympanometry test, an audiologist will insert a soft plug into your ear. The plug will vary in pressure, create a loud noise, and record your reactions to the sound and different pressures.
- During a complex speech test, an audiologist will test word recognition at your pure tone threshold.
Each test is unique and provides you and your audiologist with valuable information about hearing loss.
Experience Hearing Loss? Seek Help
While hearing loss is often seen as a common part of growing older, you shouldn’t ignore it. If you struggle to keep up with conversations happening around you, can’t hear your loved ones on the other end of the phone, or find yourself not being able to hear everyday sounds, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your audiologist. Although you may be experiencing different types of hearing loss; they may find ways to improve your hearing, such as CaptionCall service. If you have hearing loss and need captions to use the phone effectively, contact CaptionCall today to see if you qualify for our no-cost service.