What is audiometry and what is it done for?

Millions of people around the world have hearing problems. Fortunately, they are quickly detected with audiometry. Do you want to know more about her? Keep reading!

Last update: June 11, 2021

Hearing problems can affect anyone, even interfering with their performance in daily life. Fortunately, there are medical tests that allow us to assess whether this sense is affected. One of them is audiometry.

Hearing loss is a common health problem that affects up to 25% of people over the age of 50, according to some studies. It can go unnoticed when there is only difficulty hearing low intensity sounds.

One of the most common causes of hearing loss is constant exposure to high intensity sounds, although also due to specific pathologies. In this sense, certain workers must perform an audiometry periodically in order to detect the problem in time and take the appropriate measures.

What is audiometry?

Audiometry is a test in the area of ​​otorhinolaryngology that allows to assess a person's hearing function in terms of tone, balance and intensity of sound. It is able to distinguish if the conduction system or the auditory nerve is affected.

The measurement is done with a special instrument called audiometer, which will emit sounds with different tones and intensities. The examination focuses on the examination of the inner ear, so it is recommended to combine it with a tympanometry. Tympanometry will rule out middle and outer ear conditions, such as cerumen occlusion.

Generally speaking, this test can be divided into 2: pure tone audiometry and speech audiometry. The first will determine the softest and quietest sounds a person can hear, thus establishing a threshold. On the other hand, speech evaluates how well a conversation can be heard at different tones and in everyday situations.

Audiometry can be combined with other tests that provide more information on the state of sense and auditory structures.

Read also: 5 professions related to hearing loss

When is it necessary?

Audiometry is always necessary when a decrease in a person's hearing is suspected. In most cases the problem is noticed by a family member or someone close to the patient, especially due to communication problems.

Other signs of hearing loss include listening to the television or radio louder than usual, and even speaking in a higher pitch of voice. All people diagnosed with deafness should have this test routinely performed to prevent progression.

Some conditions can cause hearing problems from birth, although they can be addressed with gene therapies. These patients will need constant monitoring with audiometry from an early age.

On the other hand, there are conditions that can cause hearing problems throughout life, among which the following stand out:

  • Prolonged exposure to sounds greater than 85 decibels.
  • Chronic ear infections.
  • Otosclerosis
  • Acoustic trauma.
  • Ménière's disease.
  • Brain tumors.

Audiometry procedure

It is important to note that audiometry is a non-invasive study, so it does not present any type of associated risk. In addition, it does not require prior preparation and people will be able to resume their daily activities at the end of the test.

The evaluation can be done in the doctor's office, although the French Society of ENT states that should be done in an acoustically controlled environment, with variations less than 30 decibels. Ideally, a special sealed room.

During the test the patient will be seated in the middle of the room and the specialist will place the audiometer in the ears. First, it will begin with a pure tone audiometry, in which the ear will be stimulated with sounds of weak intensity, which will gradually increase until the patient can perceive them, thus establishing the threshold.

Tonal audiometry should evaluate one ear at a time, always starting on the healthier side. The frequency of the sounds should also vary, starting at 1000 Hertz, then moving to lower pitches and then higher pitches.

Once the threshold is established, speech audiometry will begin, allowing you to explore other useful data. Sounds within the hearing threshold will be played first to determine sound distortions. Then the sounds will be replaced by words at different intensities.

The test in question does not cause any discomfort or discomfort. It is very fast and usually takes about 1 hour to complete.

Hearing loss alters the quality of life. Its detection in time with audiometries allows establishing a suitable treatment.

You may be interested in: Hearing loss due to aging: causes and treatments

What do the results mean?

The results of the audiometry will be shown in a special chart called audiogram. It will reveal in detail all the sounds perceived by each ear and their intensity.

Hearing loss is diagnosed when a person's hearing threshold is greater than 25 decibels. Audiometry also makes it possible to assess the severity of the situation, thus helping to determine the treatment. In this way, the doctor can notify if the prescription of hearing aids or more invasive procedures, such as a cochlear implant, is necessary.

In addition, the test allows to establish if there is any neurological damage that is causing the problem. As if that were not enough, the presence of distortions will indicate the specific area that is affected.

Audiometry is a safe and useful test

Audiometry is a test that allows assessing people's hearing in order to detect problems in it, such as hearing loss. It is a fast, reliable procedure that does not carry any type of risks.

The early diagnosis of any auditory pathology is essential to slow its progression and avoid total loss of consciousness. In this way, it is important to see your doctor as soon as possible if you have hearing problems.