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Why is Pure-Tone Audiometry a Common Hearing Test?

an audiologist is reviewing a patient's audiometry test

If you’ve recently had an appointment with the audiologist, you may be wondering exactly what the phrase pure tone audiometry means and how it applies to any hearing issues you may have been experiencing.

This is one of the most widely used hearing tests in the profession, so you are highly likely to come across it at some point. There are several good reasons why this is one of the most useful diagnostic tools for an audiologist – and why you’ve been called to have one.

What is a pure tone audiometry test?

This type of hearing test uses single-pitch or pure tones at different frequencies to measure the scale of hearing an individual has. Pure tones are played in their separate frequencies as a way to categorize hearing – your response will be carefully monitored as the tones are played and this helps your audiologist to identify any loss of hearing and how severe it might be.

During the test, you will be asked to put on a pair of headphones. These will repeatedly play a sound along a spectrum of volumes. Your audiologist will be looking for indications of when you have heard a sound – and noting when you have not. The outcome is being able to pinpoint the decibel level at which you can no longer hear a sound.

Tones will then be repeated at different frequencies. The audiologist is then able to build up a fuller picture of your sensitivity to different pitches. They plot your hearing on a chart known as an audiogram which will show at which point your hearing ability tapers off.

This is used to assess how mild or severe your hearing loss is. With the test completed, the audiogram will display your hearing function across a range of decibels and frequencies. You can see what frequencies are affected, and how severely against an average. 

This will enable your audiologist to suggest things which may be able to make a practical difference in your daily life.

Why is pure tone audiometry used?

There are several factors which have made the pure-tone audiometry test among the most frequently used:

  • Accuracy: The most important factor is, of course, the accuracy of diagnosis that a pure tone audiometry test can provide. The highly rated results mean this test is viewed as a good standard bearer among types of hearing test and most audiologists prefer this testing method as they can rely on the results.
  • Convenient: Because this test is quick to carry out, it’s more convenient for the patient. Although the results are considered comprehensive, the test itself only takes around 20-30 minutes to complete, which means patients find it easy to book in.
  • Range of data: This type of testing allows results to be measured in each ear individually as well as all round hearing. This is highly important as mild hearing loss may only affect one ear. Type and severity of hearing loss are established for each ear, which allows for much more accurate identification of the issue.
  • Less equipment: Pure-tone audiometry testing is easy to carry out and doesn’t require complicated equipment needed to perform the test. All that’s required are a pair of headphones, a quiet room, a soundtrack of tones to use and an audiogram to record the results.

What other types of hearing tests are there?

In some situations, your audiologist may recommend further or more detailed tests to be carried out. In most cases, this won’t be necessary thanks to the data range and accuracy of the pure tone audiometry test, but in some patients, it may be recommended. Other types of hearing test include bone conduction tests – usually used when something is blocking the outer or middle ear, such as when there has been an injury or illness.

Tympanometry is another type of test that uses compressed air to look at the mobility of certain parts of the eardrum and conductive bones. Auditory brainstem response (ABR) is used for sensorineural hearing loss and will monitor a patient’s brain waves during a recorded track to assess what activity takes place when sound plays.

The right testing to address hearing loss

Your audiologist will want to ensure that you undertake the right kind of testing to give a complete audiometric evaluation. This will more than likely start with the pure tone audiometry testing, which is a first-line diagnostic tool.

The accuracy and detail of the results are usually enough on their own, but you may then be recommended from some other specific tests to address particular issues. The convenience and non-invasive nature of pure tone audiometry testing makes it the first choice.

At Arkansas Professional Hearing Care, we strive to help you along your journey to better hearing. Give us a call today at 501-614-7904 to see how we can help.