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Rinne and Weber tests are exams that test for hearing loss. They help determine whether you may have conductive or sensorineural hearing loss. This determination allows a doctor to come up with a treatment plan for your hearing changes.
A Rinne test evaluates hearing loss by comparing air conduction to bone conduction. Air conduction hearing occurs through air near the ear, and it involves the ear canal and eardrum. Bone conduction hearing occurs through vibrations picked up by the ear’s specialized nervous system.
A Weber test is another way to evaluate conductive and sensorineural hearing losses.
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves are unable to pass through the middle ear to the inner ear. This can be caused by problems in the ear canal, eardrum, or middle ear, such as:
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there’s damage to any part of the specialized nervous system of the ear. This includes the auditory nerve, hair cells in the inner ear, and other parts of the cochlea. Ongoing exposure to loud noises and aging are common reasons for this type of hearing loss.
Doctors use both Rinne and Weber tests to evaluate your hearing. Early identification of a problem allows you to get early treatment, which in some cases can prevent total hearing loss.
Doctors benefit from using Rinne and Weber tests because they are simple, can be done in the office, and are easy to perform. They’re often the first of several tests used to determine the cause of hearing change or loss.
The tests can help identify the conditions that cause hearing loss. Examples of conditions that cause abnormal Rinne or Weber tests include:
Rinne and Weber tests both use 512-Hz tuning forks to test how you respond to sounds and vibrations near your ears.
Rinne and Weber tests are noninvasive and cause no pain, and there are no risks associated with them. The information they provide determines the type of hearing loss you may have, especially when the results of both tests are used together.
The Rinne and Weber tests are easy to perform, and there’s no special preparation required. You will need to go to the doctor’s office, and the doctor will conduct the tests there.
There are no side effects of Rinne and Weber tests. After you have the tests, you’ll be able to discuss any necessary treatment options with your doctor. Further examinations and tests will help determine the exact location and cause of the type of hearing loss you have. Your doctor will suggest ways to reverse, correct, improve, or manage your particular hearing problem.
Written by: Heaven Stubblefield
Medically reviewed on: Sep 23, 2016: Judith Marcin, MD
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