Take a hearing test – Which one?


To have an NHS hearing test you will need to be referred by your GP. Once referred, your assessment will be performed by a qualified audiologist.

If you buy hearing aids from an individual, you will be assessed by a hearing care professional (also called a dispenser). You may be referred to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist for further examination of your hearing loss or ear problems.

If you want to try a free audience, check out the RNID has one. It’s not the same as a full hearing check by an audiologist, but it’s a good first step to see if you need it.

What happens during a hearing test?

You will have hearing tests to assess both ears. These measure the type and severity of your hearing loss and usually take place in a soundproof booth.

All audiologists follow the British Standard of Audiology (BSA) guidelines for the tests they perform. The tests usually differ between children and adults, but they are all painless and can include:

  • Air conduction test – sounds of different volumes and frequencies (low, mid and high) are played through the headphones, and you press a portable button when you hear them. The audiologist will gradually make them softer, testing the quietest sounds you can hear until they reach your “threshold” of hearing at each frequency.
  • Bone conduction tests – a vibrating sensor is placed behind the ear to test how sound travels through the bones of the ear (again, you press a button when you hear sound).

The test results, which are recorded on a chart called an audiogram, will show the audiologist if your hearing loss is likely to be What is hearing loss?. They will explain it to you and you can request a copy of your audiogram if you wish.

Depending on what the hearing test shows, the audiologist may ask you to take different tests. The procedure and results should all be explained to you, so ask questions if you are unclear on any of the details.

You will be asked a number of standard questions about your ears, hearing problems and any other symptoms you have experienced. You will be asked questions about your family history of hearing problems, your general health and your lifestyle – for example, your leisure activities. These answers, along with the results of the hearing tests, are essential to help the audiologist determine which solution is best for you.

And then ?

Sometimes the hearing care professional will advise you to get hearing aids but will also offer you additional support from another specialist, such as an ENT doctor. This may be the case if you suffer from vertigo or if there is a significant difference between your ears.

If hearing aids are an option for you and you wish to continue, the audiologist will advise you on the best type of hearing aid based on your hearing loss and individual needs. They will consider physical issues, such as the flexibility of your fingers, your eyesight and what you do day to day, as well as an assessment of the severity of your hearing loss.

Your hearing care professional will usually take an impression of your ear if you need an earmold, and you will need to return a few weeks later to have your hearing aid fitted.

Some types of hearing aids, called “open-ear fittings”, do not require an earmold. Sometimes they can even be placed on the same day as your test, if there is enough time.

  • Find out how much you’ll pay if you go private – including a detailed comparison of what each retailer offers, from free batteries and wax traps to a money-back guarantee – with our guide to hearing aid prices

What should happen after my hearing test?

If you choose to get hearing aids, you will go to a second appointment to have them fitted and learn how to use them. Hearing aids will be adjusted according to your level of hearing, so it is likely that you will have both objective and subjective tests (tests as well as checks by the audiologist and your own opinion) to verify that they work effectively for you.

You will then have a third appointment to check on how you are doing and fix any teething issues you may have.

Remember that it may take some time to get used to your hearing aids – usually between two and four weeks. If you still have hearing aid problems after this time, make an appointment with your hearing care professional.


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