Hearing Link

Your hearing test

a patient being fitted with a hearing aid

First your GP, or another member of the NHS staff team, will check your ears for any blockage or infections. They may then:

  • carry out a hearing screening test (a short test to decide whether you need a full hearing test)
  • refer you for a hearing screening test
  • refer you for a full hearing test

If your ears aren’t clear, you’ll need to deal with this first. For example, you might need to have wax removed or clear an infection. Your GP might refer you to your nearest hospital’s Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) department if you have an issue that needs investigating further.

Seeing a private audiologist

If you visit a private audiologist, they’ll carry out a full hearing test. If they think you might have a medical issue (like an infection) that needs clearing, they’ll ask you to see your GP first.

Getting the most from your appointment

At your appointment, you should talk about all of the issues you have with your hearing and whether you also experience other problems often associated with hearing loss. These might include tinnitus (noises in the head or ears), trouble with balance (the hearing and balance centres in the brain are connected), or pain in your ears.

It’s important to talk about the different situations where you find it difficult to hear clearly. After your hearing’s been tested, you should be given the option to discuss the results so that you understand your hearing loss.

If you can’t hear what your doctor or audiologist is saying, ask them write down the key points, or type them on a screen. (It can also help if they look directly at you when speaking (rather than at their computer screen). You might also want to check with the receptionist how they’ll contact you for your appointment.

It might be useful to take someone else with you to this appointment. There is often a lot to remember and two heads are better than one!

What happens in a hearing test?

Wherever you have your hearing assessed, the kind of tests you’ll do are likely to be similar. The first tests used are called audiometry and take about 20 minutes. They’ll include being played clicks or other sounds through a headset and measuring your ear’s response. This is done with one ear and then the other, as the results can be different. You may also have sensors placed on your head and neck to check the response of nerves. There may be other tests after this.

Your hearing test results

Sound is measured in two key ways:

  • volume – measured in decibels (dB)
  • pitch (whether it’s high or low) – measured in hertz (Hz)

Your audiologist will probably refer to these two things when they explain the results of your test to you. The test results will be plotted on a graph called an audiogram. You may not be shown your audiogram and (and you don’t need to worry about understanding it if you are). If you do want to see yours, it’s best to ask on the day of your test.

Your hearing threshold is the quietest sound you can hear. It’s measured in decibels (dB).

Take a look at the table below to see how different levels of hearing loss are defined:

Hearing level Threshold Examples
Normal hearing -10 to 20 dB Rustling leaves, quiet whispering
Mild hearing loss 21 to 40 dB Computer fan, loud whispering
Moderate hearing loss 41 to 70 dB Rainfall, normal conversation
Severe hearing loss 71 to 95 dB Vacuum cleaner, smoke alarm, lawn mower, shouting
Profound hearing loss 96 dB or higher An orchestra playing loudly

Hearing thresholds showing volume of different sounds in decibels

Diagram showing hearing thresholds

Watch Kim having a hearing test

Thanks to Hear-it


More on having a hearing test from the Hear-it website.

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