How long should an audiometric test take?
The minimum time needed for an audiometric test is made up of several sections:
Questionnaire - one minute
Before the test the attendee completes a pre-test health questionnaire and reviewing this with them will take about a minute.
Otoscope - 30 seconds
We then have a look down their ear with the otoscope, which is about 30 seconds in total.
Beeping and button pressing - six minutes
For the beeping section, to do a single frequency you have a beep, then they press the button, then another beep, and so on. Each combination of beep and button press is about two seconds, and a second between them. There are maybe five beeps of decreasing volume, then increasing again, then decreasing again, and a final increase. All-told, assuming the attendee is consistent in their response, the minimum time per frequency is 25-30 seconds.
There are then ten frequencies to test, minimum, plus one frequency is repeated to ensure the attendee is responding reliably. This means the minimum time for the beeping part is 11 x 30 seconds, or 5 1/2 minutes.
A lot of audiometry companies, us included, do an additional pair of frequencies, one above and one below the minimum five, as this gives a clearer picture of the attendee’s hearing which means at least six minutes for beeping and button pressing.
Review with the attendee - two minutes
Get the attendee out of the booth and sit them down again.
Clean the headphones and response button
Print the audiogram
Explain the result to the attendee and give them a copy
Prepare for the next one - 30 seconds
File the audiogram, save the electronic version, quick bit of paperwork, and set up for the next person.
Total time for an audiometric test
Add all those up and the absolute minimum time needed to do the hearing test is ten minutes.
This is a minimum time and in reality more is needed to do the job properly, for example:
The timings above do not include the attendee completing the pre-test health questionnaire.
Some take an absolute age to complete the questionnaire.
Attendees frequently don’t hit every frequency perfectly every time and take longer before settling on a result.
Some have a complicated health history or result and longer is needed to explain it to them.
Some turn up a couple of minutes late - it happens every day. If they are scheduled every ten minutes you have no time for catching up.
If people have poor English, the health review and then the subsequent explanation can take a lot longer.
This means that in reality you need more like 12-13 minutes per audiometric test, hence we schedule one test per 15 minutes.
But some companies do it faster?
Yes, they do. I have come across anecdotal reports from clients of some companies getting people in and out inside of five minutes, and in and out of the booth in only three minutes.
To be totally unambiguous about this - you cannot do a compliant test that fast.
You cannot short-cut the otoscope or the number of frequencies or number of responses needed by an attendee, and for some of the screening companies to hit the kinds of times I am told about, then short-cutting it is the only way as it is not possible otherwise. So it is possible to do, but the results are inevitably rubbish and useless for screening requirement compliance.
So how many audiometric tests can be done in an eight hour day?
If a technician is working an eight hour day, they need a minimum of half an hour off for food and the loo and for their sanity, which means 7 1/2 hours of testing. Trimmed right down to the minimum of 12 minutes per test, this means a maximum of about 37 tests in a day. In reality, people turn up late, take longer to complete the questionnaire or the test, etc. meaning a realistic figure is more around 30 to 33 tests per technician in a full day.
Anything more than that and the process is being short-cut somewhere. Often in the actual audiometry test itself, or the otoscope skipped, but commonly time is saved when explaining the result to the attendee - they usually end up being the type of Technician who does nothing more than ‘computer says no’ and refers every Category 3 rather than analysing each result on it’s own merits and making sure the attendee understands what it means.
Getting 40 or so tests done per technician in an eight hour day is not a sign of good testing or good value.
If shifts are being worked and technicians are working back-to-back, one on days and one on evenings, then up to 60 or so in a day is reasonable.