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What happens in a hearing test? Your hearing assessment explained

Hearing tests are painless and non-invasive, and the entire thing shouldn’t take more than an hour.

You can get one in the comfort of your own home almost anywhere in the UK, free of charge.

And in most cases — if you need them — we can even fit your hearing aids right away! One simple ear check up with our fully trained expert audiologists and we will soon get to the bottom of your hearing problem.

An elderly woman wearing either NHS hearing aids or private hearing aids

A hearing assessment is very simple to do, yet many people delay getting an ear test because they worry it could be uncomfortable or take a long time. This is not so. One quick audiology test could change your life for the better, especially if you feel your hearing loss is getting you down. 

Here are some other great reasons to get an audiology assessment:

They can quickly determine the cause and extent of your hearing loss

Your healthcare professional will only recommend the best solution

You can trust our audiologists to recommend only and exactly what you need

What happens in a hearing test?

The process is very straightforward. First, one of our audiology test professionals will visit your home at a time and date of your choosing.

We have lots of professional audiologists all over the country ready and waiting to come to your door. We cover almost all of the UK (except for Northern Ireland and the more remote parts of Scotland — such as the Highlands and the northern islands).

Questions to answer during the hearing test

Your audiologist will then ask a few questions before beginning the test, to get a better understanding of your hearing loss. These questions might be to do with:

Difficulty communicating

Confidence issues

Other problems associated with hearing loss (for example, tinnitus)

How long its been since you first noticed a problem

A brief medical history, including that of your hearing loss, including if the problem came on suddenly or gradually over time, and any ear infections you may have had

The hearing test procedure

Your audiologist will then test your ears. This involves playing sounds at various different pitches. You will be instructed to wear a pair of headphones to do this and to press a button whenever you hear a sound. This is sometimes called a ‘pure-tone audiometry’.

The headphones help to create what’s known as an ‘air conduction threshold’. Meaning sound is forced through the air of the ear canal to be heard. This allows your audiologist to test your full hearing capacity. 

After this, the headphones will come off, and you will be asked to wear a headband (sometimes called a ‘bone conductor’). This time, little vibrations will be sent through the headbands, and you’ll be asked to press a button whenever you hear a sound through the vibrations. This process allows the audiologist to determine how the inner ear is functioning. 

Hearing assessments are normally carried out in a quiet environment and your home is a perfectly fine place to have one — providing the kettle or the washing machine isn’t too loud! This part of the assessment will take about 20-30 minutes.

A woman undergoing a hearing test.

Testing how you hear during conversations

Your audiologist may also perform a speech test to see how well you can hear conversations. This process normally involves inviting you to listen to samples of people talking (usually short sentences and a few single words) either through headphones or a speaker. 

Sometimes the test is deliberately done with some background noise playing, to simulate a real-life conversation. Your audiologist will then want you to repeat the words back to them.

This test provides your audiologist with further information on what settings you will need for hearing aids (if the test finds that you do need one). Along with additional information on what level of improvement could be made for better hearing.

The camera examination

The next part of your audiological assessment will involve a tiny camera. This will help the audiologist to determine if you need a hearing aid or not. Don’t worry, this won’t be uncomfortable or painful in any way. 

Using the camera, your audiologist will be able to look clear at your ear canals and eardrums to make sure they are healthy. They will primarily be looking to make sure there is a clear pathway in your middle ear and inner ears for the sound to pass through.

Understanding your hearing test results & audiogram

You will hear some scientific words thrown about during your hearing assessment. But your audiologist will make sure to explain all of them to you during the test. 

The key ones to consider are:

  • decibels (dB) — we refer to the volume or level of a sound in decibels.

  • hertz (Hz) — we measure in hertz how high or low a sound is in frequency or pitch. 

Your audiologist will use these terms to plot your level of hearing on an audiogram (see image below).

What happens in a hearing test? This chart shows how your hearing is measured.

As you can see on the graph, sounds become louder the further down the audiogram they are. Sounds that are higher up — or softest — are nearer the top of the graph. 

The pitch or frequency of a sound goes from low (on the left side of the graph) to higher (the right side). A bit like how the keys on a piano go from low to high, left to right.

What is ‘normal’ hearing?

If you can hear the softest sounds between the -10 and 20dB range, then that is considered healthy, normal hearing. You won’t need any treatment and probably won’t have noticed a problem in the first place. 

But if you cannot hear a sound louder than 20dB, then you probably do have some amount of hearing loss. And the further down the chart you go, the more of a hearing loss issue you have. 

As a rule of thumb:

  • Mild hearing loss is between 21dB and 40dB
  • Moderate hearing loss is between 41dB and 70dB
  • Severe hearing loss is between 71dB  and 90dB
  • Profound hearing loss is greater than 90dB

What happens if you need hearing aids

At this point, your audiologist should know enough about your hearing to recommend what to do next. 

If your audiologist recommends that you wear a hearing aid, then they will talk you through all of the different types and models available. They will also let you know what they think will be the best type for your hearing loss.

Click here for an overview of everything you need to know about hearing aids.

Preparing your ears with ear measurements

To make extra sure that your hearing aids will work and fit properly, your audiological evaluation may end with some ear measurements. These measurements only take a couple of minutes and are completely painless. They help us to:

Accurately learn the exact shape of your ear

Determine just how well your ear canals transmit sound

One way of measuring is to take an ear mould. An ear mould is one way we can make sure that your hearing aids are custom-fitted. This is so that they fit perfectly into the shape of your ear. Crafting an accurate ear mould takes about five minutes. 

The next step involves a type of microphone that listens to how well your ear canal will respond to the different sounds that hearing aids make. We do this to make sure that the hearing aid you decide on will give you the best level of sound possible.

Fitting your hearing aids

Not only does an audiology evaluation barely last an hour — but we can also begin the process of improving your hearing right away. 

In most cases, your audiologist will be able to programme your hearing aids so that they’ll serve your needs exactly as intended. Then your audiologist will show you how to fit them, teach you how to operate them, and answer any questions that you may have.

Arranging for aftercare

It can take some time to get used to hearing aids, especially if you’ve struggled with hearing for a long time. So we won’t just disappear after we’ve sorted you with some hearing aids. Instead, we’ll make sure to stick around, to see that everything is running smoothly. 

We will make sure to:

Organise a follow-up call to ensure you are happy with your hearing aids

Fine-tune your hearing aids if necessary

Answer any new questions that you might have

Over the longer term, we’ll keep in touch with you every 18 months to two years or so for a hearing check — just to make sure everything’s all right

And of course, we’re always here if you need us. So just get in touch if there’s something you would like to discuss

Explain everything about our aftercare during your hearing assessment.

If you have hearing loss but don't need hearing aids

Even if you are having trouble with your hearing, it might be that you have a different type of hearing loss that wouldn’t be suitable for treatment with hearing aids

Sometimes a buildup of earwax can cause blockages and even illnesses like a bad cold can give us issues with our hearing. The good news is, most of the time these issues are temporary and our hearing health experts can assist with that too. Check out our hearing care, treatment and support page for more information.

Taking an online hearing test

You can test your hearing right now on the Internet if you want. There are plenty of videos and tools online that you can find with a quick search, and many on YouTube and even by mainline hearing specialists themselves. 

As you’ve probably already guessed, however, these online tests are nowhere near accurate enough to self-diagnose a hearing problem. But they can be somewhat helpful if you want to be certain that you have a problem or not. 

You can even do telephone hearing tests, which work in a similar way. 

But neither a telephone nor an Internet video is a match for a real hearing assessment carried out by a professional audiologist

If it’s an audiology test in the comfort of your own home that you’re after, then you can book a FREE home hearing test with us today. We’ll send out a professional, fully-qualified audiologist for a quick, painless ear test. It won’t cost you a penny, and you won’t have to worry about getting down to the pharmacy or health store, or about any long waiting room times.

Frequently Asked Questions

At home or in a health centre or store. Lots of pharmacies and opticians do them. But a lot of people find it more convenient to have an ear test taken in the private and comfort of their own homes and on their own time.

These tests are taken with all the same professional equipment as you’d expect in a health centre and it doesn’t cost anything extra. If you are eligible and wondering how to get a hearing test, you can arrange for an audiologist to come out to your home for an assessment free of charge.

Most hearing tests are free, even if you choose to go private. You can get free hearing tests on the NHS, privately, in-stores and in the comfort of your own home.

Many people go down the private route because the tests are in most instances free of charge, and especially if one can be arranged in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Find out if you’re eligible for a free at home earing test

Although the test itself is often free, you will normally have to pay for any treatment. For example, for hearing aids.

About an hour. It might be a little under 1 hour or a little over. Hearing test procedures are normally quick, convenient, and painless.

Avoid listening to loud music or exposing yourself to loud noises before a hearing assessment. It’s important to give your ears a good rest of about 48 hours (two days) before the assessment, so accurate measurements can be recorded.

If you are planning on going to a concert or working on a construction site, for example, it might be best to rearrange your appointment.

About the author

A headshot of one of our audiologists.

Asa Richards, Audiologist/HAD M.S.H.A.A

Head of Audiology & contributor

Asa has worked as an audiologist for 6 years, providing expert and revolutionary care to patients who suffer from hearing loss in the meantime. He also supervises the management, learning, and career development of the Hearmore Audiology and Sales Management team.

You can reach Asa on his LinkedIn page here.