We Maltese have a reputation to be loud compared to our European counterparts more to the north. We just like to tell ourselves we're just more lively and our characters more colourful.
But do you have trouble understanding conversation in noisy places? Do you ask people to repeat themselves? Have people told you to get your hearing checked? Has your GP referred you to a hearing specialist who can do a hearing test?
Then you might have hearing loss. You might just feel like you do, or the people close to you have said you might. These thoughts are common and most people do go through them. In fact many people have hearing loss and don't even realise.
Let's see what goes on during a hearing test, but first make sure a hearing test is what you actually need.
Before you go for a hearing test
It is crucially important that you see a GP first if:
- You have other symptoms, like earache or discharge; this could in fact be something easily treatable like an earwax build-up or ear infection
- You have sudden hearing loss in one ear.
- You are worried about your child's hearing.
These might be symptomatic of something completely unrelated to hearing loss. If none of them apply, you're good to go for a hearing test. Let's see what goes on during the test.
During the test
The test itself is usually comprised of several tests. The different tests are carried out to check if the patient suffers in fact from hearing loss and pin down the cause. Common hearing tests include:
- Tympanometry: tests the condition of the middle ear and mobility of the eardrum (tympanic membrane) and the conduction bones by creating variations of air pressure in the ear canal. To conduct the test a small device is placed inside the patient's ear.
- Pure tone audiometry: a behavioural test used to measure hearing sensitivity. During the test the patient listens to different sounds through headphones and presses a button or raises their hand each time to signal they did hear something.
- Speech perception test: similar to a pure tone audiometry test, but in this case the patient listens to speech rather than digitally-produced sounds.
The above are the main hearing tests for adults. Note that different hearing tests are applicable to children and newborns.