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What is an Auditory Test?

Daniel Liden
By Daniel Liden
Updated Feb 13, 2024
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An auditory test is a test of an individual's hearing used to detect hearing problems. An auditory test may also be referred to as an audio discrimination test; such tests check an individual's ability to tell the difference between location and magnitude of sounds as well as the simple ability to perceive sound. Auditory tests are often administered on a regular basis throughout elementary school to check children for hearing problems. After that point, people seldom take such tests unless they have reason to believe they are suffering from some kind of auditory problem.

Generally speaking, an auditory test is given to an individual in the form of small sounds, such as clicks or beeps, that are played through headphones at varying volumes. The individual is asked to indicate, verbally or through some gesture, that he has heard a sound. He is typically asked to indicate where exactly the sound came from as well; this helps to determine the precise nature of a given hearing problem. Further tests are run or recommended if the initial auditory test indicates any hearing problems. If the test is administered at school, a specialist typically takes over if issues are noticed.

Auditory tests can also be administered to individuals who are unable to indicate whether or not they heard a sound, such as infants and mentally handicapped individuals. This can be done through auditory brain stem response audiometry or brain stem evoked response audiometry. Small sounds in the form of clicks or beeps are produced, as with almost any other auditory test. The brain's response is measured through electrodes that are attached to the individual's scalp and earlobes and, possibly, other locations on the head. The procedure is completely safe and painless and has proven to be a very effective way to find hearing problems in infants.

A more complex auditory test is generally administered to individuals who are suspected of having some form of hearing problem. These tests often focus on the ability to discriminate between, remember, and understand sounds. Words are commonly used for this purpose; similar words, such as coast and roast will be presented to an individual to see if he can discriminate between them. Other words are given in a sequence to check if the individual is capable of remembering auditory stimuli. There is no single form of auditory test that can comprehensively discern all problems, but when administered in the right combinations, auditory tests can generally locate any hearing problem.

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