What is Audiometry?
Quite simply, audiometry is another name for a hearing test, it is a procedure which measures how sensitive your hearing is to different sounds using a machine which measures your ability to hear sounds at different frequencies.
Why should I need a hearing test?
The human ear is a very fragile organ. Exposure to loud levels of noise either at home or work can cause permanent damage to the ear. Anyone who works in a noisy environment (or has any noisy hobbies such as loud music or shooting) is at risk of sustaining noise damage.
Wouldn’t I already know if my hearing was damaged?
People do not become deaf overnight. Noise induced hearing loss is a disability which develops slowly, normally over a period of several years, many people whose hearing has been damaged by noise are not aware of any change. A slight hearing loss will not be noticeable under normal circumstances, and so will be allowed to deteriorate even further as a result of continued exposure to noise.
People are not usually aware that they have a hearing loss until they begin to have difficulty following conversations, and notice that some words are not heard as clearly as others. Unfortunately, a hearing loss due to noise exposure is permanent and once these problems have started, there is nothing that can be done to return the hearing back to normal.
Because of this, it is very important that any hearing loss is detected in its earliest stage, long before you become aware of the problem yourself. The only way this can be achieved is by having a hearing test, ideally repeated on a regular basis.
Before the hearing test
Before the test you should make every effort to avoid excessive noise exposure for as long as 2 days before the test, but for at least 16 hours, by wearing hearing protection in noisy areas if necessary. This includes not only excessive noise exposure at work, but also excessive social noise exposure such as night clubbing, rifle shooting, loudly listening to music, etc.
For the day of the test you will be given an appointment time. Please arrive ideally 5 minutes before the test to allow you to sit down, relax in a quiet environment, which improves the accuracy of the test, and complete a questionnaire if you haven’t already done so. If you have been given the questionnaire in advance, please try to complete it as fully as possible before attending and ask the nurse/technician if you have any queries. Please bring with you any hearing protection (plugs/muffs) that you normally wear at work, to show the tester.
What will the test involve?
You will be asked to complete some simple questions on our screening form, which is a confidential document and no disclosure will be made to your employer without your consent. This identifies your current and previous exposures to noise at work and any hearing problems you may have from other causes.
The test itself is performed in a specially designed sound booth. You will hear short beeps through a set of earphones and will be asked to press a button either during each beep, or after each individual beep you hear. The audiometer (the machine that is used to perform the test) records how quiet the beeps can go until you no longer hear them. The test involves no discomfort and takes only a few minutes to perform.
What will happen to the results of my test?
As soon as the test is finished, you will be shown the graph produced by the audiometer, and given an explanation of its findings. You may be given brief advice on how to correctly wear ear muffs/ear plugs, etc, and on the importance of abiding by the Company’s Hearing Conservation Policy.
If the test suggests you have a problem with your hearing you will be advised at the time If previous test results are available, the latest test will be compared to your previous tests to look for any deterioration. If any problem is detected, you will be given a referral letter and asked to take this to your own doctor for further consideration. If you have given your consent, your company will receive a summary of your test, advising them whether there are any relevant problems.
What can I do if my hearing is damaged?
Even if your hearing has already been damaged, it is never too late to start taking precautions by lowering your exposure to the noise where possible and using protective noise reducing equipment such as ear plugs or defenders. With the exception of ageing, your hearing should not deteriorate further unless you expose yourself to continued noise. If the correct type of hearing protection is used whenever necessary, your hearing should remain at a similar level.
By having regular tests, any change in your hearing can be detected quickly and appropriate measures taken to keep your hearing at the level it is now.