Comparing NHS And Private Hearing Tests

Hearing tests are available on the NHS and from private clinics; NHS hearing tests are provided free of charge, while private tests carry a fee, which is determined by the clinic.

Hearing tests are generally carried out for two reasons; firstly, they are used as routine screening to identify hearing issues in young children and secondly, they are employed to check a person’s hearing when they are complaining of impaired hearing or they have suffered a degree of hearing loss. The aim of both private and NHS hearing tests is to determine your ability to hear; there are various tests available and they help to identify specific issues related to levels and types of sound and the part of the ear affected; the findings of hearing tests can also be used to confirm the type of hearing loss.

Common types of hearing test that are available on the NHS include:

  • AOAE test (automated otoacoustic emissions): this test involves wearing an earpiece, which plays noises, which sound like clicks; the earpiece monitors the reaction of the ear to the noise.
  • AABR test (automated auditory brainstem response): this test checks the nervous system response to sounds and involves placing sensors around the head and neck; when a sound is played through the headphones you are wearing, the sensors will monitor the reaction of the nerves.
  • Bone conduction test: this test is designed to check how well the hearing nerve responds to noise; it involves wearing a sound generator, which also vibrates, behind the ear. The generator presses against the bone to determine whether the nerve is working as expected.
  • Pure tone audiometry tests: this is a simple test, which requires you to press a button when you hear a sound; you will be played a variety of different sounds of varying volume, frequency and pitch.

Specialist hearing tests

Private clinics may also offer additional, specialist hearing tests; examples include:

  • OAD (obscure auditory dysfunction) test: this test is designed specifically to determine whether you have difficulties hearing when background noise is present compared to the average person.
  • Threshold equalizing noise test: in some cases, there may be dead areas of the cochlea, which mean that there is no function at all with relation to hearing; the threshold equalising test is used to check for dead regions to determine whether or not a hearing aid would be beneficial.
  • Speech audiometry: this test is similar to pure tone audiometry; however, it measures your ability to hear people speaking and to filter out sounds, which makes it easier for you to hear what you are trying to concentrate on; during the test, normal conversation will be simulated in a recording and you will be asked to respond to see how well you can hear the voices and whether you are unable to filter additional external noises effectively.
  • Middle ear function tests: many tests measure understanding, as well as hearing and this test is designed to gauge middle ear function very simply and quickly; it is ideally suited to children and it can help to highlight potential causes of hearing loss, including obstructed Eustachian tube, fluid around or behind the eardrum, problems with the hearing nerve and issues that affect the bones in the middle ear.
  • Tinnitus assessment: tinnitus is a condition, which is often described as ringing in the ears. Private hearing tests can help to determine the cause and severity of tinnitus and this information can then inform a decision about suitable treatment options.

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