How Long have Audiograms/Hearing Tests been Around?

a patient receiving the results of his audiogram

For as long as hearing loss has been apparent, we have looked for a way to test for it. As medical practices have evolved so have the ways for testing for hearing loss. Right from the start in Greece through to modern testing, we’re going to have a look at the history behind hearing tests. 

The first hearing test

The history of audiograms or hearing tests starts in Greece. The first presumed hearing test was completed by Hippocrates of cos dating all the way back to 60-377 BC. Research suggests that this famous Greek physician was the first written in history to test hearing through clinical research. He heavily believed that it was due to heavy winds or injuries to the skull that was the main cause. 

The middle ages 

Jumping right through to 25 B.C, we come across Aulus Cornelius Celsus. He is known for being the author of the first-ever medical encyclopedia. Part of his research consisted of him testing for hearing loss and he provided some unique solutions to try and resolve it. One of these was the removal of ulcers by surgery. In the early and middle ages, there were some advancements, but the advances that occurred were not until the late 1800s where the use of technological advancement played a huge part in getting it where it needed to be. 

Tuning forks through to audiometers

There was a range of different ways that hearing was tested through the times. During the 19th century Ernst Heinrich Weber and Heinrich Adolf Rinne, two German physicians, tested patients by using a tuning fork. The idea behind it was to determine if the hearing damage was sensorineural or conductive. 

David Edward Hughs had created a better testing agent by 1879, this was known as the audiometer. To use it you turned a knob to alter the sound frequencies, the patients then raised their hand if they had difficulty hearing the sounds. This is something that has definitely helped progress in hearing tests nowadays. 

Electric is added

Germany, 1919 saw the introduction of the first electronic version of the audiometer. Towards the end of World War II, Raymond Carhart and Norton Canfield, the fathers of audiology worked to build specialized aural hospitals for the soldiers who were now tackling hearing loss. At these hospitals, they experimented and started to perfect the electronic audiometer as a hearing test, the results are now referred to as audiograms.

Age of the audiogram

Nowadays there are many more ways to receive an audiogram. When babies are born, they received a hearing test before they are released home, this is known as an automated otoacoustic emissions test, it monitors the ear’s natural response to sound. If further testing is needed it is then referred to an automated auditory brainstem response test that very similarly tests the automatic response of nerves through sensors on the head and neck. Also included in the hearing test range is the pure tone audiometry tests. These tests are the ones that you will find most commonly used within an audiologists’ office. The work by sending out different beeps at a range of decibels for the patient to react to. The listener then has to press a button in response to the sounds that they hear. If they don’t hear a beep they don’t press. The audiologist is then able to determine what level of hearing loss the patient has and the certain decibels that they struggle with the most. 

Modern hearing tests

The audiogram has certainly dominated the history of hearing tests, mostly because of its high success. There has now been the release of online hearing checkers that are able to give the listener a general idea of if it’s time to see an audiologist or not. However, these digital tests are most definitely not enough to determine how much help they may need or be able to determine the right equipment they might need, this is where audiograms from full hearing evaluations are still heavily relied on. Hearing tests can require a series of different examinations to paint a complete picture of your hearing health, but your audiologist will talk you through each step and explain what is being done.

If you think that you may be experiencing hearing loss or want to learn more please contact Affordable Audiology & Hearing Service at 920-232-4752.