Speech audiometry is a very basic way to test for hearing loss – but it plays an extremely important role in your complete hearing evaluation.
Unlike other hearing tests, which measure a patient’s hearing abilities, speech audiometry measures a patient’s comprehension abilities. Audiologists often use speech audiometry in conjunction with other tests during a hearing loss evaluation. Speech tests can sometimes reveal a hearing impairment that other tests don’t disclose or measure effectively.
What Is Speech Audiometry?
Speech audiometry assesses your ability to hear and comprehend spoken words. The test is usually completed in five to ten minutes and has two components – one measures your speech reception threshold (SRT) and the other determines your speech discrimination (SD) abilities.
The results are scored using a percentage scale. They are also charted on an audiogram, which measures the decibel level, frequency and gravity of hearing loss. Your audiologist will help you understand your speech audiometry test scores, which can reveal the type, frequency and severity of a hearing impairment.
How Are the Two Speech Audiometry Tests Different?
Speech tests have two parts, which are conducted similarly but measure different comprehension abilities. During both SRT and SD tests, you will listen to prerecorded speech through headphones and respond to the prompts directly to the test administrator.
- SRT: This test measures your speech reception threshold at decreasing volumes using a small set of words, which are revealed at the beginning of the test. These words will then be randomized and repeated at lower and lower decibel levels until you are unable to recognize and repeat which word you hear. Once your response accuracy is below 50 percent, your audiologist will end this portion of the testing.
- Speech discrimination: SD tests reveal word recognition abilities using speech sounds at a decibel you can hear clearly. Your SD test’s volume level is determined using your other test results. Like during SRT testing, you will be asked to repeat the words transmitted through your headphones. In this case, though, the speech is all delivered at the same volume, each phrase is different, and the words aren’t revealed in advance.
What Are the Benefits of Speech Audiometry?
Speech testing is different than other hearing tests because it reveals how a patient comprehends words. Some people who display hearing loss during other tests still have excellent recognition and comprehension abilities; conversely, some people whose hearing tests are otherwise normal struggle to understand spoken sound.
Speech tests are the most accurate imitation of how you hear and communicate in the real world, so their results help your doctor provide better counseling, treatment, advice and more.