Can You Pass a Hearing Test but Still Have Problems Hearing?
Many people who have a hearing test as adults do so because there is an issue with their hearing. They’ve noticed a decrease in the range of sound that they can hear, so they book a hearing test with a hearing instrument specialist in the hope that they could get some answers. In most cases, hearing loss is due to a buildup of wax in the ear, aging or other issues that are inevitable at some stage. In other cases, hearing loss is due to an injury or as a result of illness. Either way, getting regular hearing tests when over 50 is a smart idea to keep up with hearing health. When you attend a hearing test, you’re usually having air conduction audiometry, where you are in a chair and you listen to beeps and sounds and press a button when you hear those sounds.
This test determines your ability to hear sound, and you think it’s a good thing when you hear it as it means you can hear – or so you believe. You can hear the beeps, but for all you know, your hearing instrument specialist is checking for the pitch you can hear, not whether you can hear at all. It’s possible to have an audiogram that is nearly normal and still have issues with recognizing certain words. Hearing tests can measure your ability to hear pure tones, tested with one single frequency at a time. When it comes to speech, people need to be able to hear and separate different frequencies at the same time. They must also recognize a variety of words. During a hearing test, you could have excellent results, but your brain may not be able to recognize words.
This is where you will pass a hearing test for beeps, but you’d still have issues with your hearing. This is because your ears aren’t hearing it, your brain is the one that recognizes speech and simple words and phrases. Hearing noises and distinguishing speech are two very different things. With the right hearing instrument specialist, you should be able to be referred to do more sophisticated testing if this is a problem for you.
I can hear fine, but I can’t understand what you’re saying.
It’s very common for a hearing instrument specialist to hear this phrase from their patients. They will be able to explain that this is about how the brain processes sounds. Auditory disorders are often picked up at hearing tests when the hearing test is just fine, but there are still issues. The good news is that there are more comprehensive hearing tests out there that can be done. Instead of just the standard beep test, you would need to go through word recognition testing and speech-in-noise testing, which is where you’ll listen to speech at the same time as background noise.
If these have been done by your hearing instrument specialist and nothing is clear, then you should consider that you have a different tolerance for sound and your brain is prioritizing sound differently to others.
Auditory processing disorder – what is it?
While a good hearing test result with additional issues in your hearing isn’t common, there are still reasons for it and the most common one is auditory processing disorder. This is where you can hear the tones during the test and yet cannot process all sounds correctly. Audiograms with your hearing instrument specialist will only test the ears, but auditory processing disorder is not an ear issue, it’s in the brain. Sounds become jumbled up, so you think you are hearing one thing when really, you’re hearing something completely different.
It’s not a hearing loss, which is good news, and it’s not a learning difficulty or disorder. Your brain doesn't hear the sounds correctly and tries – and fails to put them in the right order. It’s something that often begins in childhood and those who have auditory processing disorder often have the following symptoms:
- Unable to follow conversations
- Unable to perceive where a sound came from
- A hard time listening to music
- Difficulties with remembering spoken instructions, particularly if there are multiple steps
- A hard time understanding what people say
If you have a hearing issue but your tests are coming back as normal despite a difficulty hearing, then give Armand’s Hearing Center a call today at our Bradenton office at 941-748-9800, or Sun City location at 813-938-1148. You deserve to have a full bill of hearing health and we can help you to achieve it.