Hearing management

Updated 13 July 2018

What happens during a hearing test?

You would think that if you started going deaf, you’d notice. Not so. Hearing loss happens gradually and often goes unnoticed. Here’s what happens during a hearing test.


Don’t ignore signs of hearing loss as it can have a profound effect on your quality of life at any age. Hearing loss can hamper development in children and cause serious problems at home and in the workplace for adults.

Fortunately hearing tests are non-invasive and fairly simple procedures. We found out what happens during a hearing test. 

Regular checkups

According to the Association of Independent Hearing Healthcare Professionals, you should have your hearing tested regularly. They recommend:

  • 18 to 45 years old: every five years
  • 45 to 60 years old: every three years
  • 60 years and older: every two years

When to go for a hearing checkup

People usually assume that hearing loss only affects the elderly but it can affect anyone at any age.

Do you find it hard to follow conversations in noisy environments or constantly ask people to repeat themselves? Does your family complain that the TV or radio is too loud?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, it might be time to book a hearing test. 

What happens during a hearing test?

Always discuss any concerns you may have with your audiologist.

1. Initial examination

Your ears are examined with an otoscope to check for any visual problems in your ear canal or ear drum. If you need a hearing test, it is performed in a quiet, soundproof room with no background noise.

Audiologist checking a boy's ear

2. Pure tone test

This checks your ability to hear different pure tones, which indicates the degree of hearing loss. You’ll wear headphones and hold a button in your hand – and when you hear a tone, you press the button. Each ear is tested individually and afterwards the results are illustrated as an audiogram, which shows the softest sounds you can hear at different frequencies.

Man having a hearing test

3. Bone conduction test

Sometimes you’ll have a bone conduction test to measure your ability to hear pure tones using a small bone conductor that is placed behind your ear. It checks for any problems in the middle ear cavity.

4. Speech test

This test checks to see whether there are problems with your auditory nerve, which sends signals from your ear to brain, helping translate the sounds you hear into words you can understand as speech.

5. Tympanometry

This test checks the condition of your middle ear and mobility of the eardrum.

6. Set aside some time

A hearing test can take between 60 and 90 minutes. 

Audiologist testing a woman's hearing

Image credits: iStock


Ask the Expert

Hearing Expert

Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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