3 Types of Tests Used to Evaluate Hearing in Children and Adults

an audiologist is reviewing a patient's audiogram for hearing loss

Hearing loss can happen for a number of reasons, including regular exposure to loud noises, disease, certain medications, or as a result of the normal aging process. Audiologists are trained professionals with a wealth of knowledge in determining hearing loss, often having Masters and Doctorates. As every individual has a slightly different configuration of hearing loss, audiologists are able to carry out a series of safe and painless hearing tests to determine the best plan of action. 

Signs that a hearing test may be necessary: 

  • Having trouble in understanding what others are saying, especially in louder environments 
  • Needing to ask others to repeat themselves 
  • Difficulty in hearing high-pitched sounds, and needing to increase the volume on the TV or while listening to music
  • Frequent ringing sounds in the ears

What are the different types of tests that audiologists use to evaluate hearing loss in children and adults?

Hearing loss tests for children

The type of test that is given is dependent on the child’s age and symptoms. Infants and younger children are tested with sensors or probes that can measure hearing, while older children may be given sound tests that can check their response to tones or words delivered at varying volumes, pitches, and/or noise environments. 

The main types of hearing tests for infants and newborns can include:

Auditory brainstem (ABR) test

This type of test specifically checks for sensorineural hearing loss. It’s purpose is to measure how the brain responds to sound. An audiologist will place electrodes on the scalp behind each ear as well as small earphones inside the ears. A series of clicks and tones are then sent to the earphones, allowing the electrodes to measure how the child’s brain responds to these sounds. 

Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) test

During this test, the audiologist will place a small probe similar to an earphone inside the child’s ear canal. This probe will then record and measure the inner ear’s response to sounds to determine hearing loss. 

The main types of hearing tests for older children can include:


This test allows an audiologist to determine how well a child’s eardrum moves, and can also identify ear infections or fluid or wax build ups. A small device will be placed inside the ear canal to push air into the ear and allow the eardrum to move back and forth. A machine will then record these movements on graphs known as tympanograms. 

Speech and word recognition

This test can determine a child’s level of ability in hearing spoken language. During the test, a child will put on headphones and will be asked to repeat several simple words spoken at varying volumes. It can be conducted in both quiet and noisy environments in order to evaluate their ability to distinguish speech from background noise. 

Hearing loss tests for adults 

Similar to children, adults can be tested for hearing loss with speech testing, as well as Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs), Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR), or tympanotomy tests. Other tests for adults can include:

Pure-tone testing

Also referred to as pure tone audiometry, this type of test uses air conduction to determine a patient’s ability to hear sounds at different pitches and volumes. This test is performed within a soundproof room with the use of specially designed headphones. Numerous sounds will be broadcasted through the headphones, in which the patient will be instructed to raise their hand or press a button in response. After the test is completed, the results are plotted on an audiogram to display a visual representation of the patient’s hearing loss. 

Bone conduction testing

This is another pure-tone test which evaluates the inner ear’s response to sounds. Rather than using air conduction, this test is performed by placing a conductor behind the ear that sends small vibrations through the bone directly to the inner ear. The results from both pure tone and bone conduction testing can be used together to determine the degree of a patient’s hearing loss. 

Acoustic reflex testing

This test involves measuring the involuntary muscles contractions found within the middle ear. It is used to determine the type of hearing loss as well as the location, such as the ossicles, cochlea, or the auditory nerve. 

If you or your child are experiencing hearing problems, help is available. In order to receive the full benefits of a hearing aid, attending a hearing test appointment with a professional audiologist is vital. To learn more about our services at Texas Professional Hearing Center, call us today on (281) 420-8033.