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Hearing Tests: What to Know Before You Go

If you're thinking about getting a hearing test, here's what to plan for and expect.

Giselle Castro-Sloboda Fitness and Nutrition Writer
I'm a Fitness & Nutrition writer for CNET who enjoys reviewing the latest fitness gadgets, testing out activewear and sneakers, as well as debunking wellness myths. On my spare time I enjoy cooking new recipes, going for a scenic run, hitting the weight room, or binge-watching many TV shows at once. I am a former personal trainer and still enjoy learning and brushing up on my training knowledge from time to time. I've had my wellness and lifestyle content published in various online publications such as: Women's Health, Shape, Healthline, Popsugar and more.
Expertise Fitness and Wellness
Giselle Castro-Sloboda
4 min read
A printed out audiogram with a otoscope.
clubfoto/Getty Images

Hearing loss affects over 48 million Americans, which is why it's important to not neglect your hearing. Getting a hearing test is a helpful way to take care of your hearing and to find out if you are experiencing hearing loss. A hearing test provides an audiogram, which is a graph that can show the highest and quietest sounds you're able to hear at each frequency. It also has the ability to find the type, degree and sometimes the cause of the hearing loss. A hearing test can be conducted on people of all ages if a doctor deems it necessary. 

If you're looking to get an audiogram because you suspect you may have some hearing loss, there are a few things you should know about what to expect. We spoke with an expert to help you better understand this type of examination and what you should do beforehand.  

How to prepare for a hearing test

If you have a hearing test scheduled then you're probably wondering how you can prepare for the examination. First, you'll want to make sure your ears are clean. "Make sure your ears are clear of wax or visit a clinic where they also do microsuction wax removal if you are prone to wax build up," said Dayna Edwin, an audiologist at Clearly Hearing. This is because if you have a lot of earwax, the test results may not be accurate. 

Additionally, if you work in a loud environment or listen to music loudly, she advises that you avoid exposing your ears to noise within 24 hours of the hearing test. It will also be helpful if you know your hearing history and gather any questions you have for the doctor. 

What to expect during a hearing test

The test will be conducted by an audiologist and the process is slightly different depending on who is having the examination done. For example, "Newborn babies receiving this test are usually sedated with electrodes placed on their heads," Edwin said. Meanwhile, children may be given a listening game to play and adults are given a test where they have to follow instructions by pressing a button each time they hear a sound.

Keep in mind what is considered normal hearing for children and adults varies. "The margins for normal hearing are smaller for children and usually below 15 decibels, instead of the normal 20 decibels -- as it is more important for them to hear to learn language they need to be able to hear at quieter levels," Edwin said. 

Even results are handled differently depending on who is receiving the test. Adults and children can receive results right away and are classified into normal, mild, moderate and severe hearing loss. Edwin said results are not as straightforward with infants and may require further analysis. "For babies, sometimes the testing may need interpreting by a very specialized clinical pediatric audiologist or even a team of audiologists," she said.

Hand marks an audiogram by hand, with a hearing aid sitting on the side.
OzziesImages/Getty Images

What to do with your audiogram results

To understand your audiogram, the key parts you need to look at include: 

  • The X or horizontal axis shows the frequencies that were tested (as in the pitch).
  • The Y or vertical axis shows the loudness or volume of each frequency. 
  • The symbols show your results for each ear: X indicates left ear responses, and O for right ear responses. The location of these symbols shows how loud each frequency had to be for you to hear it. 

The level of hearing loss (if any) will usually be classified as mild, moderate and severe.

Depending on your results and age, you may need additional tests or follow-up care. Edwin said, "Adults without hearing loss or over 50 years old are tested every three to four years, whereas if they have hearing loss or wear hearing aids, then every one to two years is recommended." 

If a child doesn't exhibit signs of hearing loss, she recommends they receive a test before going into elementary school (around ages four or five) and again when they're around 11 years old or entering middle school. 

"If a child has an identified hearing loss, they should be tested every three to six months to detect any deterioration in hearing, which is more likely when a child has a congenital hearing loss," she said.

An audiogram can tell a doctor whether the person may be suitable for a hearing aid. "If the hearing thresholds are particularly poor, the person may require hearing aids and other assistive devices, perhaps even lipreading classes," Edwin said. However, if hearing loss is severe, the doctor may suggest a cochlear implant or encourage the patient to learn sign language. "The hearing and communication solutions selected are not just based on the audiogram, but a good audiologist will also factor in the lifestyle and social needs of the patient," she said. 


Even though a hearing test may not seem like a test everyone needs to prioritize, it's helpful to keep an eye on your hearing. It's a helpful way to measure your hearing abilities and detect any changes as you get older. The sooner you catch any slight changes, the easier it will be to manage them with the assistance of a doctor.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.