When You Are Tackled by Tinnitus In The Testing Booth

The hearing aids come out. I startle from the shock of the ringing. My tinnitus is no longer masked by the real sounds around me. The door to the testing booth shuts with a thud that I feel more than hear. Since I wear my hearing aids 24/7, I rarely experience how quiet everything is without them. In some ways the cessation of sound is a relief, but only until the tinnitus arrives. Silence, yet for me, it is not silent. I sit alone with my ringing, waiting for the hearing test to start.

It begins. The loud sounds are a breeze. I can hear those over the tinnitus, but as the tones become softer, I strain to make sense of them. Is that a beep or just the ringing?

My thoughts are racing. Am I failing the test? Does this mean my hearing is worse or will it just look that way on the audiogram? Was that a tone? I should have pressed the button. Should I press it now? I am lost in my own mind and am missing the beeps.

“Stop!” I finally say to myself. I need to pay attention.

Maybe the audiologist noticed my uneasiness, because she switched to a whirling sort of beep. This was very helpful since the sound was easier to distinguish from the ring of my tinnitus. I calmed down and focused more clearly.

The rest of the test passed without incident and the results showed only a slight worsening in the higher frequencies where my ringing is the worst. Was it from the tinnitus or an actual change in my hearing? There is no way to know, but I considered this a good result, all things considered.

After the test, I was eager to reinsert my hearing aids. I know they will bring the relief of quiet. And the joy of better hearing. At least until the next hearing test.

Readers, does your tinnitus interfere with your hearing tests?

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24 thoughts on “When You Are Tackled by Tinnitus In The Testing Booth

  1. Yes! Use to drive me crazy but once I accepted I can’t hear and got over it! How do you hear 24/7? Do you sleep with your aids on?

    • My hearing aids make noise when I lay down (despite recommendations that I use behind-the-ear hearing aids, I tried them twice from two different companies and hate them, so I use in-the-ear hearing aids).

      I use a Sonic Blast alarm, which they sell at Harris Communications online. It has a vibrating disc you put under the mattress, flashing lights, and programmable tones so that it makes a sound you can hear without your hearing aids. These can be connected to other systems to also vibrate with fire alarms, doorbells, and “baby cry.” My dog is my alarm for everything but waking up.

  2. Yes, tinnitus really messes with me during exams. When I was younger, I don’t think I realized that, but over time, I’ve come to wonder how tinnitus impacts a hearing exam. It seems when they put the headphones on, it gets way worse, as if the pressure against the ears or even silence negatively impacts it.

    My audiologist, who has a Ph.D. (Did you know they are requiring that now, at least in Texas?), also adjusted the tones when we hit a tinnitus wall.

    But I was still struggling through beeps, chirps and whatever sounds tinnitus decided to create that day.

    I wonder if they should develop a different test for people with tinnitus altogether? What is our actual hearing, excluding tinnitus? Hearing aids for many reduce the tinnitus, so that would impact the hearing, no?

    As my hearing loss progressed, I also encountered pain with an examination when they kept raising the volume until I could hear it in an ear with profound hearing loss. I’ve since warned them to be careful when I’m not responding to any tones.

  3. Tinnitus has always been an issue during testing. I figured that if it was a problem when testing the same would be the case in actual experience – understanding at those frequencies would be difficult just like in the booth.

    My tinnitus has gotten “softer” or lighter over time. Specially since CI surgery – a year ago in about 10 days. It used to be quite distracting and now it is much better. It’s there when it’s quiet but with any aural information at all I don’t notice it. Knock on wood. I also feel fatigue affects it.

    I am scheduled to have a booth session in late June and I plan to talk to my audiologist about this before. An accurate reading is important, but if you are not sure that you actually heard a sound then saying you did isn’t helpful, it seems to me. Whatever the case, I think it’s important to get past performance anxiety.

  4. Recently, I ran into an audiologist who was unwilling to acknowledge that tinnitus could be a problem, and she chalked it up to me faking it when I wasn’t sure what I was or wasn’t hearing when she tested me. She told the doctor who headed audiology that I was faking it, and he refused to hear me out (no pun intended) or look at my extensive, well documented history (said it was irrelevant). Long story short, this supposedly fabulous military/teaching hospital refused to treat me in any way – despite a decades long history of hearing loss, a missing eardrum, and Meniere’s that had been previously confirmed by the head of neurontology at Stanford as well as at several other medical providers. Wouldn’t it be great if the ‘experts’ really were expert? Unfortunately, there aren’t many other options for providers where I currently live.

  5. Definitely having Tinnitus with a profound hearing loss will not help with getting a good hearing test result. I dread hearing test, specially when they close that air tight door to the sound booth. I tend to be claustrophobic as well which doesn’t help. Been having these test done since age 7, and you feel like an idiot trying to hear sounds in between the tinnitus noise. You think you heard the sound, then you’re not sure if it was the tinnitus or the beep you heard ,very frustrating!!!!

  6. Hi Shari. Thank you for sharing this. i think I talked about this with you before one time. Yes, tinnitus really does interfere with my hearing tests. I also start to panic and I put m hand up to say i’ve heard a beep, and then immediately think that it was a tinnitus sound. It’s good to know that it’s not just me having these problems! Carly

  7. As an audiologist, I always listen to my client’s concerns. Many times people mention this issue. I typically present the tones of the test in a pulsating mode (beep beep beep) rather than just as a single beep or as a, steady, long tone (beeeeeeep). If the tinnitus is a steady sound than the pulsing tone can stand out better and be easier to identify. Second, it is important to realize that audiologists present the tones several times at each decibel level to find the level where you hear it about 50% of the time. This is your threshold of just barely hearing the sound. If you respond 100% of the time at a particular decibel level, then that level is above your threshold. If you have a hard time hearing the tone because of your tinnitus, you will most likely still be able to hear the tone of the test at some decibel level consistently. It is my job to find the level where you just barely hear it. Most people, even if they have trouble because of the tinnitus, are still pretty consistent with their responses – even if those responses are hesitant. Since I present the tones with varying intervals of time in between them, I can pretty easily determine when the client actually hears the tone and when they are just clicking (or raising their hand) because they mistakenly think they hear something. I hope this helps. I feel bad for the person who wrote that their audiologist did not believe them that the tinnitus was interfering – that’s just wrong.

  8. I’m very fortunate that my audi understands this and uses the whirly tone to help me. Also, I try to keep the ADD at bay and listen as intently as I can. When I get to, I think I heard that but I’m not sure, I let it pass and she turns it back up once, then back down, and I know I heard it and push the button. She knows my pattern and is fine with it.
    Your post reminded me it’s been almost a year since an adjustment, which means I’ve probably lost about 5 decibels and I need to get in to see her!

  9. I actually didn’t realize I had tinnitus until I started getting curious about my own hearing loss (I was diagnosed at seven with mild hl, but I didn’t really think much of it until the last couple years or so). I was looking up all sorts of stuff, and then one day I realized that my ears were ringing and had been ringing for a long time, and I had just tuned it out except in quiet surroundings. The only time I noticed it was during hearing tests, and yes I felt like it was affecting my answers even though I was probably fine…

    I’ve been wondering though… Is it normal to have stronger and/or more noticeable tinnitus in the better ear than the worse ear? When I plug my ears I hear ringing in both ears, but the right ear is the one I notice immediately, whereas the left ear’s ringing is softer and a different note/tone/pitch…

  10. I also experience much more prominent and louder tinnitus in my HA ear. The other ear without the HA has a lower sounding tinnitus , which always brings up the question “Does amplified sounds with HA on cause more hearing damage and increased tinnitus”? Many audiologist tell me no, but I kind of disagree , and believe that tinnitus will increase the longer you are exposed to loud than normal amplified sounds through a hearing aid.

    • I’ve never heard anyone else say this – but I agree with you. I use devices to amplify sound for my TV and listening to lectures on my tablet. I’ve often felt after listening to something for a couple hours, that the loud device effected my hearing. How would we ever know.

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