Hearing tests are important for musicians. Most people don’t spot the early stages of hearing loss, a test can help address the problem before it gets critical.
You can get a free hearing test from several different places – some of these you can even do at home. These short hearing tests are screening tests designed to alert you to the fact you may have hearing loss. They can’t tell for definite that you have a hearing problem.
What is a hearing test?
Some GPs and private hearing aid dispensers offer a short hearing test. These tests are usually free, take about 15 minutes, and can indicate if you have a hearing problem.
If a short hearing test suggests you have a hearing problem, the next step is to have a full hearing assessment. A full hearing test will confirm whether you have a hearing problem and establish the type of hearing problem that you have.
Most GPs don’t have the equipment to do a full hearing test in the surgery. After checking obvious causes like a build up of wax, your GP can also give you a referral to an NHS hospital specialist to have your ears and hearing thoroughly checked.
In the clinic, you'll be seen by an audiologist (and possibly by an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor first, if your GP has requested it). Before the audiologist tests your hearing, you will be asked some questions about your hearing and they will look in your ears. You’ll then have a hearing test lasting about 20 minutes.
During the hearing test, you'll sit in a soundproof booth or room with headphones on while the audiologist presents a series of sounds. When you hear a sound, you signal to the audiologist, normally by pressing a button or raising your hand.
You can choose to go directly to a private hearing aid dispenser instead of having your hearing tested on the NHS. Just as with the NHS route, a hearing aid dispenser will assess you with a full hearing test lasting up to an hour before deciding if you would benefit from wearing hearing aids. You don’t need a referral from your GP.
You can search for a local hearing aid dispenser on the BSHAA's website, or simply type ‘hearing aid dispenser’ along with your town or postcode into a search engine, such as Google. Some local hearing aid dispensers offer free testing, so it's worth asking before you make an appointment.
The Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) keeps a list of qualified private hearing aid dispensers. You can use the HCPC's online register to check if the hearing aid dispenser you're about to use is registered.
Action on Hearing Loss has an online Locate and Rate tool that lets you search for audiology services in your area, both NHS and private, by name, address and postcode. Once you've found a service, you can see how other people have rated it.