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An important part of a hearing test is speech testing. Audiologists typically like to look at two areas when doing speech testing.
1) How quietly someone can hear words and repeat them back, known as a
speech reception threshold and
2) How clearly someone hears, known as the word recognition score (WRS).
Speech testing is typically done while the tester’s mouth is covered as to
not allow the patient to pick up on any visual cues. The goal is to test
the hearing only and not lipreading skills.
Speech reception threshold (SRT) testing is done by first familiarizing the
patient with a list of two syllable words (spondees) such as “hotdog,
cowboy and baseball.” Next, the same words are repeated back, one ear at a
time, quieter and quieter. This allows us to find the softest word you can
hear and repeat back. Don’t worry, no one can get them all, everyone misses
a few because our audiometer (hearing testing machine) can go quieter than
the average person with normal hearing can even hear. SRTs give us an idea
about how well you can hear quiet speech sounds.
The word recognition (WRS) testing is done by presenting words at a
comfortable listening level and having the patient repeat them back. We
use words such as “knock, pick and home” presented to one ear a time.
Anywhere from 10-25 words per ear are tested. This gives us an idea of how
clearly a person hears in a quiet situation. How clearly a person hears in
quiet allows us to set up realistic expectations in various listening
As an aside, we never present off colour words. We once had a patient who
repeated some pretty bold words. When he got out of the booth he said to
his audiologist that he could not believe that she would use such
language. His wife who heard the whole test pointed out that the
audiologist did NOT say the words he thought he was repeating!
There are other types of speech tests, such as word tests in noise,
uncomfortable loudness and auditory processing testing. These are more
advanced diagnostic tests and are typically not part of a standard test battery.
London Audiology Consultants