How do bone-conduction and pure-tone tests help diagnose hearing loss?

David M. Vernick, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (Otolaryngology)
The result of the bone-conduction test compared with the result of the pure-tone test indicates whether your hearing loss is primarily sensorineural (permanent hearing loss caused by damage to the cochlea, hair cells, or auditory nerve) or conductive, or a combination of the two. It will also help determine whether you have a medically correctable form of hearing loss and the kind of hearing aid you need.

If the bone-conduction levels match the levels of the tones that you hear through headphones and you have hearing loss, the problem is mainly sensorineural. This result indicates that the middle ear is working properly. But if you can hear tones better with the bone-conduction test, the problem is mainly conductive. In other words, there is a structural problem with the eardrum or the ossicles in the middle ear. The results of the bone-conduction and pure-tone tests are put on the audiogram, a graph showing the shape, or nature, of your hearing loss.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.